Wichita State has been used to an easier time in the Missouri Valley Conference in recent seasons. But the conference schedule started Wednesday with the kind of grinder they can expect more of in the future.
The Shockers held off Indiana State 80-72 on Wednesday at Hulman Center and won their ninth straight over the Sycamores.
Wichita State (11-3, 1-0 in the conference) leaned on junior Darral Willis for a season-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Willis made 9 of 19 shots and 7 of 9 foul shots.
Markis McDuffie added a career-high 22 points for the Shockers.
Brenton Scott led Indiana State (6-7, 0-1) with 14 points. The Sycamores made 10 of 24 three-pointers and held Wichita State to 4-of-18 shooting from behind the arc.
The Shockers outrebounded Indiana State 47-30, including 16-7 on the offensive boards, and came up with several key loose balls late in the game. McDuffie and Willis both grabbed three offensive rebounds, and freshman Austin Reaves rescued a possession late in the game with a hustling rebound.
Wichita State was leading 48-44 when it put together its strongest stretch of the game, with Rauno Nurger playing a lead role.
Zach Brown started the outburst with a dunk and two foul shots. Nurger scored on a follow shot for a 56-47 lead. He blocked two shots, one leading to a basket for McDuffie on a break for an 11-point lead.
A carry by Conner Frankamp broke the run, and Brown and Rashard Kelly watched Scott get open for a three that steadied Indiana State.
The Shockers pushed the lead to 67-60. Sycamores freshman Jordan Barnes converted a four-point play, drawing a foul on Landry Shamet. After a tip dunk by McDuffie, Barnes made another three that cut Wichita State’s lead to 69-67.
When it had to score, the Shockers went to Willis, whose basket put them up 73-69. A three by McDuffie made it 76-69.
The Shockers settled for a 38-38 tie at halftime. They twice built leads with potential, then handed them back quickly.
Wichita State went up 25-20 on an 8-0 run fueled by two three-pointers by Shamet. Three empty trips allowed Indiana State to tie it 25-25.
A three-point play by Willis gave the Shockers a 32-26 lead with 4:05 to play in the half. The Sycamores scored on their next four trips to produce a 9-2 run and take a 35-34 lead.
Willis, after missing four of his first five shots, made five of his next eight, with one of those misses his first three-point attempt of the season. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot. Shamet added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
The Shockers limited Scott to six first-half points, four of those on foul shots, but his teammates stepped up. Emondre Rickman scored six points, matching his season high, in the first half. Donovan Franklin scored seven points, his high since early November against NCAA Division II Missouri-St. Louis. Niels Bunschoten added five.