The more things change, the more they stay the same, and that was true by the end of this year’s Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) season.
After a dominant regular season earned it the No. 1 seed at Arch Madness, Illinois State University never led in the conference championship game in St. Louis, falling 71-51 to Wichita State University.
The Shockers, who failed to get the No. 1 seed at Arch Madness for the first time since 2013, rolled passed the Redbirds with ease, leading by as many as 23 points in the second half.
Guard Conner Frankamp, who was named the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, scored a game-high 19 points. Forward Markis McDuffie and guard Landry Shamet contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Heading into the championship game, Illinois State and Wichita State each had one conference loss, both on the road to one another. In the pair’s most recent meeting, the Shockers rattled the Redbirds by 41 points in Wichita, Kansas.
Redemption fell short for Illinois State, which couldn’t find rhythm on offense throughout the title game. The Redbirds shot a season-low 29 percent from the field. Guard Paris Lee and forward MiKyle McIntosh carried Illinois State’s offense, combining for more than half the team’s points.
The Redbirds’ foul trouble didn’t help. Three of Illinois State’s starters fouled out, including Deonte Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh, the team’s two leading scorers. Moments after Hawkins’s fifth foul, he received his second technical foul of the afternoon, leading to his ejection midway through the second half.
The Shockers scored 26 points from the line off 28 Redbird fouls.
With the win, Wichita State received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, while Illinois State’s odds were crushed.
Illinois State’s best chance to advance to March Madness would have been a conference title. With that opportunity missed, the Redbirds will have to wait until next Sunday to find out if the NCAA selection committee will put them in the 68-team NCAA tournament field. The Redbirds might be more likely punch a ticket to the NIT.