Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet keeps Illinois State's Paris Lee at a distance in Saturday's Missouri Valley Conference game at Redbird Arena in Normal.

CARLOS T. MIRANDA, The Pantagraph

The shot clock was winding down on Wichita State. It did that a number of times Saturday at Redbird Arena. Each time, the home crowd grew louder, hoping to instill panic in the No. 15-ranked visitors.

Yeah, right.

Illinois State did hound the Shockers into one shot clock violation. That was in the first half.

When it counted, with Wichita leading 60-56 and just over a minute to play, the Shockers got a pass into the lane against ISU's zone, then a bounce pass underneath from star point guard Fred VanVleet to Evan Wessel for a layup.

The basket came with 58 seconds left and five ticks on the shot clock. It was 62-56 and Wichita was on its way to a 68-62 victory.

It is a patience and poise born largely out of experience. The Shockers are a veteran group with four starters who played in The Final Four two years ago. Yet, it goes beyond that.

It is a mindset and confidence most teams talk about and aspire to but cannot replicate.

Count ISU among them.

Of all the possessions Saturday, the Tekele Cotton penetration from the wing, his pass to VanVleet and the sweet bounce pass to Wessel was all you needed to see to know which team wins close games and which one simply plays in them.

Wichita State makes you play defense for 35 seconds, unless you break down sooner. Anything less than 35 and you pay. ISU is not there yet.

Will the Redbirds get there? That may be the biggest question to come out of Saturday. The difference in this game was more attitude and approach than athleticism.

There was a lot of talk afterward about rebounding, and indeed Wichita State's 40-26 advantage was commanding.

Still, the bottom line was the Shockers made every big play they needed, while the Redbirds occasionally were rushed and reckless when they needed patience and poise.

There's those words again.

Wichita State is seemingly immune to frustration, panic. Not so, says ISU forward MiKyle McIntosh.

"They seem flustered just like any other team gets flustered at times," McIntosh said. "They just know how to work through their frustration. They've been in situations like that. They know how to keep going."

That is the challenge for an ISU team that on Saturday started a freshman, two sophomores, a junior and a senior ... to stay calm, work through frustration, keep going.

Ten days ago the Redbirds looked terrific in a 77-51 rout of Evansville. The arrows were pointing up. Then, they lost at struggling Southern Illinois, got schooled at No. 13 Northern Iowa and lost a game Saturday that was there for the taking.

So Wichita State took it.

"It's frustrating, especially when you know you can beat them," McIntosh said. "It's right there and you can taste it, but you come up short on certain things. Every game it's something else."

"Losing a close game to a ranked team is even more frustrating," sophomore guard Paris Lee said. "I say it all the time, we just have to bounce back. The important time is March."

March is getting closer.

But are the Redbirds?

Randy Kindred is at rkindred@pantagraph.com. The Kindred Blog: www.pantagraph.com/blogs. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Kindred


Sports Editor for The Pantagraph.

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