ST. CHARLES, Mo. — The third day of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament was comprised of the semifinals games. Three of the four teams were the ones the initial tournament seedings themselves predicted. Wichita State and Missouri State both cruised to double digit wins in their quarterfinals matchups and Northern Iowa won the 4-5 game over Southern Illinois by 9 points. Evansville was the lone party crasher as the seven seed after they knocked off the two seed, Drake, in a thrilling overtime upset.
Alas, the semifinals would have no similar theatrics. Wichita State blew away Northern Iowa for the third time this season, jumping out to a 12 point lead at halftime and coasting to the finish for another double digit win driven by their defense. Evansville cooled off significantly from 3-point range after their record setting 3-point performance in the quarterfinals and they were doubled up 32-16 by Missouri State in the first half. They did fight back from a 24-point deficit to get within nine points of the lead, but ultimately Missouri State was too much.
The MVC Tournament Championship game will tip off at 2:07 p.m. CT on Sunday at the Family Arena. Tickets can still be purchased for just $12. If you can’t make it to the arena, the game will be on ESPN3.
#1 Wichita State Shockers (27-4, 17-1) vs. #4 Northern Iowa Panthers (17-13, 12-6) 1:35 p.m.
Final- Wichita State 56, UNI 42
The top-ranked defense in the MVC continues to wreak havoc on the offense of the Valley even into the conference tournament. Wichita State held their second opponent in a row to just 42 points as they coasted into the finals with a 14-point win.
The remarkable thing is that the Shockers are not a one trick pony on defense. In their last game they turned Loyola over 21 times, but in this one UNI only lost the turnover battle by one but shot just 25 percent from the field and 3-22 from behind the arc. Not a single Panther finished in double figures.
On the offensive side of the ball the Shockers were led once again by senior Alex Harden with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Starting forward Kelsey Jacobs bounced back from 4-point effort against Loyola to mess around and almost get a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Jaleesa Chapel came off the bench to also score 10 points.
Northern Iowa held their only lead of the ballgame a little over a minute and a half in at 5-4, but the Shockers proceeded to go on a 7-0 run and never looked back. They finished the half outscoring the Panthers 13-5 to take a 12 point lead into halftime. Northern Iowa did not make a shot from the field in the final five minutes and only had five total in the first half.
In the second half, it was more of the same. The Shockers ran their lead up to 22, but Northern Iowa scored the last 8 points of the game.
#3 Missouri State Lady Bears (17-13, 13-5) vs. #7 Evansville Purple Aces (13-18, 6-12) 4 p.m.
Final- Missouri State 75, Evansville 66
The Cinderella story came to an unhappy and abrupt end on Saturday, as the underdog Aces fell behind quickly to Missouri State and couldn’t recover. Missouri State dominated inside to score 75 for the second consecutive tournament game and advance to the MVC Tournament finals.
Tyonna Snow continues to shine for the Lady Bears in tournament play. After her season high 26 points in the previous game, Snow scored 19 against the Aces. Kenzie Williams, Missouri State’s First-Team All-Conference selection, was back in double figures Saturday with 14 points. Hillary Chvantal and Liza Fruendt both scored 10 points.
Evansville’s Sara Dickey scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in a losing effort. She also cracked the 600-point mark for the season. Mallory Ladd, who scored more than 20 points in their first two tournament games, was saddled with early foul trouble and scored 11.
Missouri State held Evansville to just 19 percent shooting in the first half allowing them to open up a 32-16 halftime lead.
In the second half, both offenses opened up and shot better than 55 percent. Missouri State’s lead ballooned to 24 points midway through the second half, but Evansville refused to roll over. A 12-2 run shrunk the lead to just nine points with under a minute to go– the first time the lead was in single digits since the 9:11 mark of the first half.
One would think Evansville playing their third game in as many days and coming off an overtime game the night before might have hampered or had some effect on the team, but Head Coach Oties Epps was quick to dismiss that notion after the game.