Illinois State (18-14) vs. Wichita State (25-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 5:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (19,150) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: MVC Network, CSN-CHI. Home Record: ISU 11-5, WSU 15-2. Away Record: ISU 5-8, WSU 7-5. Neutral Record: ISU 2-1, WSU 3-0. Conference Record: ISU 8-10, WSU 12-6. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 37-35.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Wichita State Shockers and the sixth-seeded Illinois State Redbirds square off on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The winner advances to Sunday afternoon's championship game to face either Creighton or Indiana State.
Illinois State came into the MVC Tournament on a cold streak, having lost four of five to close out the regular season, but it started the event off on the right foot with a 73-65 victory over Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
Wichita State played for the MVC regular-season title on the final game of the season, but lost to Creighton (91-79) to earn the No. 2 seed in the tourney. After enjoying a bye in the first round, the Shockers took down seventh-seeded Missouri State in the quarterfinals, 69-59, to improve to 25-7 this season.
Wichita State swept the season series with Illinois State, most recently winning in Normal on Feb. 17, 68-67, on a game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds left by Cleanthony Early. The Redbirds still lead the all-time series, 37-35.
Illinois State led by as many as 15 points midway through the first half before allowing UNI to take a one-point lead into halftime, but it got its act together after intermission by shooting 50 percent from the floor to capture the eight-point win. Tyler Brown was the catalyst in the triumph, shooting 10- of-17 from the floor, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range, for 28 points to go along with nine rebounds. Jackie Carmichael was a force to be reckoned with in the paint with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, while John Wilkins and Johnny Hill tallied 11 points and nine boards. The Redbirds have been impressive on paper this season, scoring 75.3 ppg on 46 percent field goal shooting, while yielding an average of 68.7 ppg. Brown is a dominating scorer, pouring in 18.4 ppg on nearly 40 percent accuracy from 3-point range. Carmichael rounds out perhaps the most potent inside-outside combo in the MVC with 17.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 2.0 bpg.
It wasn't the Shockers' most impressive performance of the season in their first game of the tournament, as they were tied with Missouri State with under eight minutes to play, but they took control with a 12-1 run to pull away down the stretch. Leading the way in the triumph was Carl Hall, who tallied a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Ron Baker came off the bench to pour in 15 points. On the season, Wichita State pours in just shy of 70 ppg, but the biggest reason for its success and likely selection to the NCAA Tournament has been its stout defense, which is the top-ranked unit in the MVC in allowing just 60.8 ppg. Early is the team's top scorer with 14.5 ppg, while Hall nets 12.4 ppg on 55.1 percent from the field to go with 7.0 rpg. Malcolm Armstead runs a strong point with 9.8 ppg, 4.0 apg and 1.9 spg, while Demetric Williams chips in 8.8 ppg.
With Brown and Carmichael on its side, Illinois State is a threat to beat anyone on any given night, but Wichita State has the defensive chops to slow down the Redbirds' stars while generating enough offense to expect a berth in the championship round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 71, Illinois State 66
03/09 10:41:24 ET