The odds of No. 6 Wichita State making it to March undefeated just got a little bit better.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still bet everything I own against the Shockers making it through the Valley unscathed. You don’t make it through the Valley unscathed. You just don’t.
But if anyone is going to do it, it’s going to be this Wichita State team in this Missouri Valley, which is in a real down year. And their path got just that much easier on Saturday night, as Gregg Marshall’s club went into Springfield and knocked off Missouri State, 72-69, in overtime.
The Bears are one of the most talented teams in the league this season and — along with Indiana State and Northern Iowa — one of the toughest road environments that the Shockers will face this season. The Shockers survived, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Missouri State jumped out to a 42-24 lead at the half and pushed that lead to 54-35 with 12 minutes left in regulation.
That’s when Wichita State began their run, outscoring Missouri State 29-10 over that stretch to force the extra frame. Cleanthony Early led the way with 22 points and 14 boards, while Fred VanVleet finished with 16 points and four assists in an off night. Ron Baker chipped in with 15 points.
Wichita State is now 17-0. They hold Bradley and Indiana State next week and visit Illinois State and Drake the week after that. In fact, the Shockers may not truly be tested like this again for another four weeks, when they visit both Indiana State and Northern Iowa in the span of four days.
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.