(Photo Credit: Mick Lite)
In this semifinal battle between heavyweights in the Missouri Valley Conference, the four seed Northern Iowa Panthers defeated the one seed Wichita State Shockers 57-52. This game for the ages went to overtime tied at 47 and the Panthers will able to outduel the Shockers and get the win. They advance to the Missouri Valley Conference Championship for the second straight year and now have the chance to repeat as tourney champs.
Early on, it was nothing but all Shockers. They applied pressure on the offensive and defensive side, something they failed to do yesterday in the first half against Loyola yesterday in the quarterfinal game yesterday. The Shox jumped out to a 10-0 lead right out of the gate, thanks in part to a few buckets from Shaq Morris and Anton Grady. Northern Iowa struggled mightily, as they couldn’t muster their first basket until a Wes Washpun three pointer with 12:08 remaining in the half to make it 10-3.
The Panthers improved their play, outscoring the Shockers 23-19 after falling behind 10-0. Ron Baker, Mr. Clutch for the Shockers yesterday, looked good again in the first half, totaling six points and five rebounds. Wichita State as a team shot 12/32 in the first half, including a horrendous 0/10 from three-point land. Northern Iowa went 7/26 but 3/13 from three and found themselves only down six points at the half, as the Shockers led it 29-23 at the break.
During the second half, UNI started to narrow the gap. They trailed by six at half and the deficit in the second half was ranging from 2-4. But down 41-38, Panther forward Klint Carlson nailed a bank shot three to tie the game up for the first time since it was 0-0. Down one, UNI’s Wes Washpun nailed a shot plus the foul, and made his free throw to give UNI their first lead of the game at 45-43, with five minutes remaining.
Then with just over three minutes remaining with the game tied, Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet hit a tough layup to put the Shox
back up two. On the ensuing UNI possession, guard Wyatt Lohaus tied the game with a layup. Moments later, Wichita State called a timeout with 23.9 seconds left (21 seconds on the shot clock). Out of the timeout, VanVleet attempted a hard shot and it wouldn’t fall, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Shaq Morris won the tip for the Shockers. They failed on the opening possession and UNI came down the court and Carlson put the Panthers back on top with a layup. However, Connor Frankamp would hit a three for the Shox, putting them up 50-49. The teams then traded layups; Washpun getting one for UNI and Grady connecting for Wichita, making it 52-51 in favor of the Shockers.
After a foul, UNI’s Jeremy Morgan made one of two free throws to tie the game. Morgan would then hit a three on the next possession, giving the Panthers the lead and sending Scottrade Center into a frenzy. Looking to answer, Connor Frankamp of Wichita State sent up a three put it went off of the backboard, causing a shot clock violation and giving the ball to UNI. Wes Washpun then drove down the lane and made a layup, despite it looking like he committed a clear charge with less than 20 seconds to go. UNI would win it 57-52. The downfall of Wichita State was their shooting, as they went 20/63 and 2/24 from three (8.3%).
The Northern Iowa Panthers advance to the MVC Tourney Championship for the second straight year tomorrow at 1:05pm against the winner of Evansville and Indiana State. Despite the loss, Wichita State will still likely find themselves in the NCAA Tournament in a couple weeks. This is the second year in a row that they have finished as MVC regular season champions but not MVC tournament champions. Northern Iowa has wins against big teams like North Carolina, Iowa State, and Wichita State, they still may need to win the MVC Championship to be a for sure bid in the Big Dance.