By Lucas Owens
With their game, and eventual win, against No. 21 Oregon being scheduled within a matter of days, Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin’s squad got to visit Wichita St. in a long-awaited matchup between the two schools.
The Wichita St. Shockers, hailing from the American Athletic Conference, started the season much like Missouri did: with a win over Oral Roberts at home. The Shockers had a good season last year, finishing with a 23-8 record and in the top 4 of their conference, but took a slight step backwards heading into this year.
The Tigers got off to a fast start in Kansas, taking the lead quickly with a 15-6 run. Things did cool down over the first half, but Missouri put together a strong defensive showing and kept a high scoring offense in Wichita St. to just 30 points. The Shockers had multiple runs during the first half where they went for a few minutes without making a field goal, but the Missouri defense did a good job of forcing Wichita St. to take bad shots.
Mark Smith led the way for the Tigers in the first half with 7 points, but it was a team effort for Missouri, which had five players score more than 5 points in the first frame. Meanwhile, Wichita St. was largely reliant on Alterique Gilbert, who added 13 points for them in the first half.
The second half was more of the same, with dueling runs by both teams, but Missouri at some points pulled away even more than they did the first half, at one point leading by 15. This half though was the story of Dru Smith and Mark Smith. Dru Smith added 7 points to his 6 in the previous half, while Mark Smith put up 13 to finish with 20 points. For the Shockers, Gilbert took a back seat this half, and they instead relied on Dexter Dennis and Tyson Etienne who had 9 and 13 points this half, respectively.
Wichita St. was able to get it closer at the end of the second half, but still ended up losing by ten points, with the final tally being 72-62. The Tigers ended the game so strongly largely due to better 2-point shooting and defense, while the Shockers struggled to score on their end all day.
“I’m more accustomed to [low scores],” said Martin. “I have always been accustomed to score 60 to 50. I mean, that is my mindset: defensive toughness and all that, and we run”
While it is true that Wichita St. lost their three leading scorers from last year, this win is still a good and necessary step forward for the Missouri Tigers, who are now 3-0 with a tough week coming up as they host both Liberty University and Illinois.
“He said they had championship DNA on their team,” said guard Mark Smith, “They were a good team, so to get strong wins like that in the beginning of the season is great.”
Edited by Emma Moloney