Photo Courtesy AP/Jeff Roberson
ST. LOUIS (AP) — No. 21 Wichita State left no doubt as to whom the top team in the Missouri Valley Conference was.
Conner Frankamp scored a career-high 19 points and Markis McDuffie added 16 as No. 21 Wichita State beat Illinois State 71-51 in the MVC Tournament championship game Sunday, earning an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
“I thought we played very well against a very good team,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “I thought it was a very thorough performance. We defended well. We made our free throws. We got the ball inside. We rebounded well. We shot it well. So that results in a 20-point win and that’s hard to do against that team.”
The Shockers (30-4) have won 15 straight games since losing at Illinois State on Jan. 14. The Redbirds (27-6) had won eight straight games since losing at Wichita State on Feb. 4.
“Our loss at Illinois State really woke us up,” said Frankamp, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after scoring 37 points in the final two games. “We got right back to work after that and changed a few things and it’s really helped us. We’ll continue to work and hopefully make a run in the tournament.”
Landry Shamet added 14 points for Wichita State. Paris Lee, the MVC’s player of the year, led Illinois State with 18 points on 7-of-21 shooting, while MiKyle McIntosh scored 16.
Illinois State shot a season-low 29.3 percent from the field (17 of 58).
“We picked a bad day to have a bad day, especially shooting the ball,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. “Certainly part of it was their defense, but part of it was us. . We just got beat by a good team today. They played better than us.”
After sluggish starts the past two games, Wichita State opened this one with a 10-2 run that included 3-pointers from Frankamp and Shamet.
The Shockers, who got 13 points from Frankamp in the opening half, never trailed in the first 20 minutes, led by as many as 11 points and held a 33-25 advantage at halftime.
Wichita State pulled away in the second half, led by McDuffie and Shamet. The Shockers led by as many 23 points after halftime and sealed the victory at the free-throw line, sinking 21 of 31 attempts in the second half.
With the win, Wichita State reached the 30-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons and solidified its standing as one of the top 25 teams in the nation heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois State has lost five straight tournament championship games and fell to 4-8 in title games. The Redbirds’ last MVC Tournament championship was in 1998.
Wichita State’s dominant three wins in the MVC Tournament — by 26, 15 and 20 points — could move the Shockers up a few spots in the next poll.
Shamet, the lone freshman in Wichita State’s starting lineup, admitted to having some nerves at the start of the MVC Tournament. But after scoring 12 points in the first two games combined, he had 14 points including three 3-pointers against Illinois State. The performance helped land Shamet on the all-tournament team.
Wichita State has secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season.
Illinois State will have to wait to see if it receives an invitation to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.