Wichita State is bound to lose a game sooner or later. For 39 minutes on Saturday it looked like it was going to happen against Missouri State. In the end it took overtime, but the No. 6 Shockers moved to 17-0 and remained unbeaten with a 72-69 win over the Bears.
After taking the lead 18-15 on an Austin Ruder three, the Bears scored 14 of the next 18 points to take control. The Bears led 54-35 with 11:48 to play, and the Shockers climbed all the way back to a one-point Bears lead after a Fred VanVleet (16 points, 4 assists) three-point play with :48 left. A late review on a shot attempt that was originally ruled Missouri State ball reversed the call and gave Wichita State the ball with just 24.6 seconds to play. VanVleet was fouled on the drive and hit one of two to tie it up. Missouri State missed a shot to win it, and the game went to overtime.
Both teams looked pretty gassed in the extra period, but VanVleet kept up his late-game heroics, scoring seven of the team's eight points. The Shockers also got 22 points and 14 boards out of senior Cleanthony Early, but it wasn't one of his finer efforts. He shot just 4-of-14 on the day and had all kinds of trouble finding his rhythm.
That Wichita State struggled so much against Missouri State is a bit of a surprise despite the Bears being 12-4 on the year. The Bears haven't beaten a top 100 team via KenPom, and their best win by far over Texas A&M. Road games are road games are road games though, and Wichita State needed every second plus 300 more to escape.
Missouri State had three players in double figures, including a 17-point effort from Ruder. The Bears made 10 three-pointers and seemed to hit a big one every time Wichita State seemed to make a run late into the game but got cold when it mattered most.
Wichita State will definitely take the win, but a loss wouldn't have altered its trajectory the rest of the season, as one of last year's Final Four representatives should still be favored in just about every other game on their conference schedule. A loss like this in early January often gives coaches an opportunity to address lingering concerns that may have been covered up by win after win earlier in the season, and the adjustments they make tend to mean more come tournament time.
Good teams find ways to win when they don't have their best stuff, and Wichita State is certainly a good team. With quality wins over BYU, Saint Louis, Alabama and Tennessee, the Shockers are a threat to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament this year.