Today was supposed to be about redemption for No. 1 Wichita State University. Instead, the University of Northern Iowa — the reigning MVC tournament champions — beat the Shockers 57-52 on Saturday during the first semifinal game of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Three weeks ago, Northern Iowa pulled the upset over Wichita State, ending the nation’s longest active home winning streak by defeating the Shockers 53-50. This was the Panthers’ third win of the season against AP Top 25 teams.
Wichita State was hungry to prove it could beat the Panthers, and they showed their energy right out of the gates. The Shockers opened with a quick 8-0 run, leaving the Panthers scoreless for almost the first eight minutes of the game.
Panthers Jeremy Morgan said the team remained positive, understanding basketball is a game of runs.
“We’ve been in that situation before this season already, and when that situation comes around, we really draw closer together,” said Morgan. “[Wes Washpun, Matt Bohannon and Paul Jesperson] did a great job of bringing us back together, telling us one play at a time, we’ll make it back, we’ll make it up.”
At the 12:11 mark of the first half, Panthers Wes Washpun stepped back for a big three pointer. A minute later, Paul Jesperson sunk a shot of his own from behind the arc. Wichita State still led 13-6, but Northern Iowa was just getting warmed up.
The whole game was a battle of the backcourts. The Shockers held Northern Iowa to 26.9 percent from the field while Wichita State went 37.5 percent from the field and 0-10 behind the arc.
Heading into the locker room at the half, Wichita State led 29-23.
Washpun’s speed helped the Panthers start the the second half with momentum. He started the half with an easy layup to add to his game-high 20 points.
With Northern Iowa’s defense forcing turnovers and offense zeroing in on Wichita State’s lead, Klint Carlson stepped back behind the arc and banked a rusty shot off the backboard.
With five minutes left in the game, the thousands of Wichita State fans, which filled nearly half the lower section of the arena, rose up from their seats and roared; a faint “U-N-I” chant sung in the background. Players on both benches were clenching towels, both teams were not going to go down without a fight.
The game was tied at 47 when the regulation clock struck zero. It was going into overtime.
With 1:45 left on the clock, Panthers Jeremy Morgan threw down essential three pointer to put Northern Iowa ahead 55-52.
From there, Wichita State found themselves in trouble with a shot clock violation.
Washpun ran down the shot clock and tossed up an easy two points, increasing the Panthers lead to five and that’s was enough. Wichita State was unable to answer and fell to Northern Iowa 57-52.
At the end of the game, it came down to whose defense could uphold the other’s offense. Wichita State pulled down 34 defensive rebounds compared to Northern Iowa’s 32, respectively. The Shockers couldn’t find their groove behind the arc, only make two of its 24 attempts.
Northern Iowa is on a roll. Over the final 10 games played in MVC regular season, the Panthers owned the league’s best record at 9-1.
Northern Iowa is scheduled to face the winner of the University of Evansville and Indiana State University semifinal game on March 6 at 1 p.m. in the championship game of Arch Madness.