It was the perfect birthday present for the school’s 100-year-old basketball program: the Missouri Valley Conference title, the first since 1983.
Illinois State didn’t make it easy for WSU. The MVC last-place Redbirds shot stunningly well from three-point territory, subduing the fans that made up the season’s 14th sellout at Koch Arena. But the Shockers, as they’ve done again and again this season, found a way to win. When Kyle Wilson sank a three-pointer with 2:16 left to play, giving WSU a 59-52 lead, the crowd erupted — and didn’t settle down until long after the final buzzer.
“The fans enjoyed us getting better every year,” said coach Mark Turgeon, later named MVC Coach of the Year. “But this is what they all wanted. I wanted this for them as much as I wanted it for the players. Almost.”
What about a Most Valuable Shocker Player? As Turgeon said, “The MVP of our team is our team.”
— Connie Kachel White