ST. LOUIS (AP) — Daishon Knight capped a 25-point game with two critical free throws in the closing seconds and Illinois State rallied from eight-point halftime deficit to beat No. 8 Wichita State 65-62 in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Saturday.
Reggie Lynch added 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocks for the fourth-seeded Redbirds (21-11), who were 0-2 against the regular season champions in conference play and trailed by 12 in the first half. Illinois State has won six straight and will play either No. 11 Northern Iowa, the second seed, or Loyola, the No. 6, for the Valley’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the final on Sunday.
Fred VanVleet had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Wichita State (28-4), which was 17-1 in the conference with the lone loss at Northern Iowa. VanVleet had a tough look and was offline on a 3-point attempt with 1 second remaining.
Freshman reserve MiKyle McIntosh, a 55 percent free throw shooter, was 4 for 4 at the line over the final 1:47 for his only points of the game. Knight hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds to go for the game’s final points.
Knight had 24 points the first meeting against Wichita State but was scoreless on 0 for 8 shooting in 30 minutes in the second at home.
Ron Baker had 13 points for Wichita State but was scoreless in the second half on 0 for 5 shooting. Baker, who may have been hampered by a hard fall under the basket, added seven assists and six rebounds.
Knight had nine points in a 14-0 run that gave Illinois State a 41-36 lead with just under 13 minutes to go. Wichita State went nearly 6 minutes between baskets before climbing back into it and it was tight the rest of the way.
Baker was on pace to challenge for a triple-double at the half with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds, plus two steals.
Illinois State: The Redbirds endured a 1 for 15 shooting slump before making three in a row late in the half, 3-pointers by Lee and Knight and a layup by Lynch, then missed the last three shots. … Coach Dan Muller beat Wichita State for the first time in eight tries.
Wichita State: This is the 25th year for the tourney in St. Louis and the top seed has won just eight times, including the Shockers last year. … The Shockers shot their first free throw with just over a minute left in the half.
Illinois State: Redbirds face either No. 2 seed Northern Iowa or No. 6 Loyola in the championship game. Redbirds entered with an RPI of 71 and have shot at the NIT if they lose.
Wichita State: Shockers entered with an RPI of 12 but will likely fall to a middle of pack seed in NCAA Tournament.
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