WICHITA, Kan. — When Wichita State put 6-foot-6 Zach Brown on Illinois State’s Paris Lee to start Saturday night’s Missouri Valley Conference showdown, the message was clear.
The Shockers weren’t messing around. They were going to make it extremely difficult for the Redbirds’ 6-foot leader — and every ISU player — all night long.
Wichita State took control in the last five minutes of the first half and blew the game open right after the intermission. The Shockers used a devastating 35-4 run to settle matters early and moved back into a tie for the Valley lead with a resounding 86-45 victory before a loud and sold-out Charles Koch Arena crowd of 10,506.
“That was an old-fashioned butt whipping in every way imaginable,” said Dan Muller, who suffered his worst loss in five years as ISU’s coach. “Clearly the first 10-11 minutes we were solid, but we did not handle adversity well. The crowd was unbelievable, and that’s a credit to their players. We did not handle foul trouble or adversity. Turnovers killed us. Certainly it was not our night.”
The loss snapped ISU’s 12-game winning streak as each team sits 11-1 in the league with six games left. ISU (19-5) tries to regroup at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Drake in Des Moines, Iowa.
Junior guard Conner Frankamp led the blitz by Wichita State (21-4) with a career-high 18 points, making 4 of 6 attempts outside the arc. Sophomore forward Markis McDuffie added 16 points, while junior center Shaquille Morris contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Shockers shot 56.6 percent from the field, the highest of any ISU opponent this season.
ISU came into the game fourth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.371).
Wichita State also had plenty of motivation from a 76-62 loss to ISU in Normal on Jan. 14 that knocked the Shockers out of first place in the Valley for the first time in three-plus years.
“I thought they were ready to play. They don’t like losing. They like being in first place,” said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall of his players. “That was taken away from us three weeks ago by a very talented and well-played game by the Redbirds. But tonight we definitely returned the favor and then some. We’ll probably see them again at some point down the road.”
Presumably Marshall meant in the MVC Tournament championship game in St. Louis on March 5.
Not only did the Redbirds’ defense collapse, so did their offense.
ISU dearly missed second-leading scorer MiKyle McIntosh, who scored a game-high 20 points in the first meeting against Wichita State. McIntosh had knee surgery Wednesday and is expected to be out about three weeks.
The Redbirds shot 33.3 percent, including 4 of 22 from the arc. No ISU player scored in double figures as Phil Fayne led the way with nine points while Keyshawn Evans added eight. The Redbirds committed 19 turnovers that the Shockers turned into 21 points.
Deontae Hawkins and Lee scored a combined 10 points on 4-of-23 shooting.
“They did a good job on ball-screen defense and a good job at the rim contesting shots. They came ready to play. We didn’t,” said Lee. “I think crowd had something to do with it. We have to bounce back. We’ll have motivation in practice tomorrow, watch film and just learn from it.”
Hawkins said the final outcome was “embarrassing.”
“Give credit to them. They came out ready to play and the crowd was awesome,” said Hawkins. “They came out ready to play on the defensive and offensive ends. Our defense wasn’t how it usually is.”
Marshall was asked if Wichita State could have started Brown on Lee if McIntosh was available.
“Yeah you could. But he didn’t play though, did he?” said the Shockers’ coach.
ISU actually survived a horrendous offensive start. The Redbirds missed nine of their first 10 shots, but stayed close as Wichita State only made two of its first eight.
Tony Wills’ short jumper gave the Redbirds their only lead at 13-12 with 11:13 left in the first half before McDuffie’s three-point play put the Shockers ahead, 18-13. But when ISU freshman Madison Williams sank a 10-foot jumper in the lane, Wichita State’s lead was down to 22-20 with 5:49 left.
Everything completely fell apart from there for the Redbirds.
Wichita State went on a 12-0 run while seizing a 35-22 halftime lead. Muller picked up a technical foul with 1:51 left, apparently dismayed by the 8-3 discrepancy at that point in fouls. Fayne also picked up his third foul with 43 seconds left.
When DJ Clayton threw away an entry pass into the post to start the second half, it was all downhill for the Redbirds.
Wichita State outscored the Redbirds, 22-2, in the first 6:09 after the intermission. It got so bad Muller put in senior walk-on Javaka Thompson before the 10-minute mark as several ISU starters took a seat on the bench early.
Muller only used one timeout during Wichita State’s big run.
“Did I want them to figure it out for themselves? Yes and I wanted them to have the feeling of what it felt like to continue to get dominated, to be honest,” said Muller. “I could see in their faces not a lot was going to change.”
Lee said he wasn’t expecting Brown to be guarding him. The Shockers also used the 6-8 McDuffie on Lee.
“I’ll watch film with (assistant) coach (Dean) Oliver. We’re going to make a change,” said Lee.
“He (Brown) did a great job and is a big-time defender,” said Muller. “I thought their bigs did a great job also, not just Brown but the way they hedged the ball screens. I don’t think this was Paris’ normal self. Some of that was their defense, for sure, but his balance was bad. He had some issues in the paint. He couldn’t make a shot, but Brown was great.”
Muller told his team in the locker room that, despite the 41-point margin, it only counts as one loss in the standings.
“That’s important to remember,” he said. “If we handle our business tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday we’re OK for what one of our goals is. We’ll still be shorthanded, but I don’t think the environment will be quite the same the rest of year. We have to respond as a mature team, and I have no doubt we will.”