Friday March 20th, 2015

Wichita State ensured its first matchup with Kansas in more than 20 years by beating Indiana in the Round of 64 on Friday afternoon.

Led by junior guard Fred VanVleet’s 27 points, the Shockers defeated the Hoosiers 81-76 in a back-and-forth battle. It was a one-possession game with 20 seconds remaining before two Ron Baker free throws and an Indiana turnover with nine seconds left sealed the win for Wichita State.

The Shockers had plenty of motivation going into the game. As Wichita State has risen beyond the midmajor confines of the Missouri Valley conference, its fans have clamored for a chance at the big boys in the state. It seemed, though, that neither coach was particularly interested.

“This isn't knocking Wichita State,” Self told The Kansas City Star in December 2013, just months after the Shockers had reached the Final Four and while they were in the early stages of what became a perfect regular season. “But if it was best for our program, I would reach out to them about scheduling them. But it's not. I've heard a lot of talk about them wanting to play us so bad; Gregg Marshall's never contacted me about playing.”

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“I'm not going to Allen Fieldhouse for a check," Marshall told that same month, referencing the fact that smaller schools often are paid by larger schools for nonconference games.

Then on Selection Sunday, the committee did college basketball fans a favor by slating both Kansas and Wichita State in the bottom half of the Midwest Regional. Earlier Friday in Omaha, the Jayhawks easily handled New Mexico State 72-56, and now that the Shockers have done their part, these teams will meet for the first time since 1993.

To get to the Round of 32, Wichita State relied on a stellar performance from VanVleet, who led all scorers with those 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting (he went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line). The game was a testament to the old adage that great guard play defines the NCAA tournament. Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell led his team with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Neither team led by more than eight points in the game.

Indiana trailed 72-65 with under four minutes to go, but a three-pointer by Collin Hartman cut the deficit to four. A Yogi Ferrell three made it 72-71 with 2:26 left and a Troy Williams layup got the Hoosiers back within two with 1:03 to play. But a layup by Wichita State's Tekele Cotton layup and Baker's free throws ensured Indiana would never have the ball with a chance to tie. 

The Shockers could have overlooked Indiana, a team that barely made the field of 68, and focused instead on that potential matchup with Kansas. But Marshall kept his team focused, and now the Shockers will have no shortage of motivation to get to the Sweet 16. 

Game Flow: Indiana vs. Wichita State | PointAfter

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