The Wichita State Shockers dominated on Senior Day, beating the Illinois State Redbirds 74-58. Today was the last time that Seniors Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Evan Wessel, Anton Grady, and Tom Wamukota would set foot in Koch Arena to play a basketball game. It was a bittersweet day for both them and fans alike, as fans and basketball enthusiasts have really come to cherish the play of Baker, VanVleet, and other seniors. And boy, did the seniors make it a great one for their last home game.
For Senior Day, the Wichita State Shockers had a chance to avenge a loss from earlier this month dealt by the Illinois State Redbirds in Normal, IL. The Shockers blew a double-digit second half lead in the game and fell 58-53. That game was one of the Shockers two conference losses this season. But Senior Day was a complete different game than the previous meeting.
Right out of the gate, the action looked a lot like the second half of the previous game between the two. Wichita State led for most of the first half, and their lead was only about a one or two possession lead. But in the final four and a half minutes of the first half, the Shockers turned it up a notch. The Shox connected on shot after shot all while denying Illinois State over and over again on the defensive side. The Shockers ended the half on a 20-2 run and led 46-28 at the break. The seniors combined for 26 points with Anton Grady leading the bunch with 10 points.
Another Redbird Comeback?
In the second half, the Redbirds came out hot. They quickly cut the Shocker lead down to 10 and it seemed like they were going to close the gap even more, just as they did in the second half in the previous matchup. But the Redbirds shot went cold. Just as the Birds went cold, the Shockers got hot again. The Shockers connected on consecutive possessions, which had VanVleet knocking down two jump shots, including a three, to increase the Shox lead and they wouldn’t look back after that.
Wichita State kept playing disciplined basketball under Head Coach Gregg Marshall, which led them to victory as it has so many times over the last few years. He put all five seniors in for the final couple minutes of the game and each of them were subbed out one by one and all received a standing ovation from the crowd and were just incredible moments. Here's how the seniors finished with points:
Baker - 10, VanVleet - 18, Wessel - 2, Grady - 16, Wamukota - 0
Meet Me In St. Louis
The Shockers finish the regular season 23-7 and 16-2 in conference play. They are the Missouri Valley Conference Regular Season Champions for the third year in a row. They are the one seed in the MVC tournament which will be played in St. Louis, MO next weekend. Whom the Shockers will play is TBD. Illinois State finishes 18-13 overall and 12-6 in conference play. They will be the third seed in the MVC tournament. Illinois State will play either Missouri State or Indiana State.