They say legacies weren't built over night. For the Wichita State Shockers (29-4) the program they're building at Wichita State has taken four year journey to this point. Wichita State punctuated their triple to the NCAA tournament with a 85-71 win over the Missouri State Bears (18-14) Lady Bears on Sunday afternoon.
"This our our goal," said Alex Harden. "We were so close to Penn State Nittany Lions last season. We weren't going to do anything less than we did before. Now we have a chance to."
The Shockers advance to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament with the victory.
It's a very special moment," said Wichita State head coach Jody Adams. " Their ability to dig deep and to take themselves to another is simply amazing."
Wichita State kept the Lady Bears at arms length for much of the first half. Many times the Shockers, led by Michaela Dapprich, a junior, to a six or 7-point lead every time the Missouri State tried to gather some momentum. Wichita State led by as many as nine in the opening frame.
The Lady Bears were able to close the Shocker gap to three on eight different occasions led by Kenzie Williams eight first half points, but Alex Harden showed why she is the MVP of the Valley. Her aggressive led to six first half steals and many breakaway opportunities.
Wichita State led 38-35 after Tyonna Snow hit a layup with one second left in the half.
"We were really on our heels coming out of halftime," said Harper. They made their run coming out of the game and a lot of turnovers led to easy baskets."
With their veteran ballclub and championship aspirations on their mind, the Shockers came out roaring into the second half. They opened the half scoring the first six points. They would increase their lead to double digits at the 13:44 mark when Michaela Dapprich nailed the 3-pointer, putting Wichita State up 54-43.
The defense that UNI head coach Tanya Warren touted as the best in the history of the league came out on fire. They held the Lady Bears under 40 percent shooting for most of the second half. They limited their opportunities and every shot attempt in the second half that came from the Lady Bears was contested, forcing them into tough situations.
"I think every turnover we had was a big lead for them [Wichita State]," said Tyonna Snow. "When we turned it over they ended up capitalizing on everything we did."
Harden had seven steals, the second most in the Valley tournament.
Turnovers and fouling handicapped the Lady Bears from gaining any sort of momentum. Whenever they would get a basket or two, the Lady Bears would commit a costly error that would led to a Wichita State run off.
On a breakaway layup, Dapprich gave herself a new career of 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Wichita State grabbed their largest lead of the game at 19 points late in the contest.
Tyonna Snow led the Lady Bears with 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Kenzie Williams had 17 points, seven assists for the Lady Bears.
Missouri State's wild run of 11 straight wins ends with this defeat. The Lady Bears, (18-14) will set their sights on a potential postseason bid in the CBI. The NIT seems unlikely as they're just four games over .500.
"I've told them how much fun I've had coaching them this year," said Missouri State head coach Kellie Taylor. "I don't want them to look back on this run we've had and how much fun we've had and think this was a failure. We just played a really good basketball team today."
The Lady Bears will return all but Nijay Gaines, a senior. That bodes well heading into 2015-16.
"I think Wichita State has a real chance to win some games," said Harper. "With the right matchup, I think they could be a Sweet 16 team."
The Shockers carry their three straight Valley championships and a big 12-game winning streak that started against the Lady Bears on Feb. 8 into the big dance. Charlie Creme has the Shockers either a 13-seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.
"If we're a 13-seed, then they don't know our team, said Adams. "They haven't done their homework. No, we're not a 13-seed, we're better than that. If they choose to put us a 13-seed then that's their choices. We have to go in and do our work."
Missouri Valley All-Tournament Team
- Alex Harden - Wichita State - Most Valuable Player
- Jamilah Bonner - Wichita State
- Mallory Ladd - Evansville
- Tyonna Snow - Missouri State
- Michaela Dapprich - Wichita State