Missouri Valley MVP, Alex Harden, finished with 16 points
Wichita State Shockers (27-4) used a 19-2 run early in the first half to take a double digit lead over Loyola Ramblers (6-25) and never looked back. The Shockers advanced to the Missouri Valley Championships with the victory.
Alex Harden, the MVC’s Most Valuable Player, led all scores with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. She also had three rebounds and three assists.
Wichita State’s defense has been the pride and joy held the Ramblers to just 37.1 percent shooting. Of the 35 shots taken by Loyola on Friday, 28 were contested.
“We’re really excited about going onto round two,” said Wichita State head coach Jody Adams. “We just need to take care of business. These guys know that as much as anybody because this is their team and they run it.”
Loyola grabbed their only lead early at 5-4 with 14:52 off a Bailey Farley 3-pointer. That’s about the only real contest we’d have the rest of the way. Wichita State used that 19-2 run, spanning 10 minutes, and created the cushion that would give them the control for the rest of the contest.
Over the run for Wichita State, the defense created five turnovers and held the Ramblers to just 1-of-10 shooting over those 10 minutes.
Wichita State led 26-13 at halftime.
Harden came out strong, scoring the first basket. Then, Jamillah Bonner complimented her output by scoring back-to-back buckets of her own, forcing a Loyola timeout.
Bonner finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
The Ramblers would crawl to within 33-22 with 11:22 to go in the game, but an 8-2 run helped put the Shockers back at a comfortable lead.
Loyola’s sophomore, Taylor Manuel, led the Ramblers with eight points and pulled down 12 rebounds. She as averaged 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds over the two games for Loyola.
Loyola’s season ends at 6-25 on the season but there Sheryl Swoopes’ team has a lot to look forward to next season. They have nine underclassmen returning next season, along with one junior. There is some real positives for Loyola.
“Taylor is without a doubt a very special player,” said Swoopes. “I think she’s the best big woman in our conference.”
Harden became the Wichita State all-time leading scorer in the second half, breaking Allison Daniel’s record of 1,638 points that stood since 1986.
“I had no idea,” said Harden. “I kind of figured it out after the stands went crazy.”
“I’m excited for her reaching that milestone and being our all-time leading scorer in the history of the women’s basketball program,” said Adams.
It’s the sixth straight year Wichita State has advanced to the MVC Championship semifinals. Last time they did not advance? The 2009 tournament, where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals. They’ll take on the winner of Southern Illinois Salukis and Northern Iowa Panthers. That game is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. CST on Saturday March 14. That game can be seen on ESPN3.