BLOOMINGTON — In his final game at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall, senior forward Juwan Morgan did all he could to keep Indiana's teetering basketball season going.
But not even the inside scoring efforts of Morgan could keep hard-charging Wichita State from ending an up-and-down season for the Hoosiers on Tuesday night.
Behind 21 points from senior forward Markis McDuffie and 17 points from freshman guard Dexter Dennis, Wichita State pulled away in the final five minutes to beat Indiana 73-63 in the NIT quarterfinals before 10,312.
The 6-foot-8 Morgan scored 21 points in his final collegiate game, going 8-of-15 from the floor. He even got a friendly bounce on a 3-pointer in the second half. But after an inside layup by IU junior forward Da'Ron Davis cut Wichita State's lead to 61-57, Dennis responded with a dagger 3-pointer for Wichita State, putting the Shockers up 64-57 with 2:37 remaining. From that point, Indiana did not get closer than seven points.
"I just didn't want it to be my last game," Morgan said. "I just wanted to win. I was doing what I had to do. You have to give them credit. They really made it hard on scoring in the post, just scoring in general with the size they had at the four and five positions. They are a great team. They made it really tough. But sometimes you have to go make plays, and I was trying to do that for my team tonight."
Indiana (19-16) was done in by another off shooting night, going 38.5 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. The Hoosiers were vying to make their first trip to the NIT semifinals in New York City since 1985, when they lost in the NIT finals to Reggie Miller-led UCLA.
Wichita State also was able to get to the foul line more, with 25 trips compared to 13 for IU.
"Our inability to get to the foul line and run good offense was the big difference," Indiana coach Archie Miller said.
Instead, it was Wichita State celebrating a trip to New York with its 14th win in its last 17 games. Dennis added five rebounds and six blocked shots for the Shockers (22-14). McDuffie scored 18 of his team-high 21 points for Wichita State in the first half, while Dennis scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half.
"They hit a lot of big shots, a lot of big back-breaker 3s," Indiana point guard Rob Phinisee said. "But there's not a lot we can do about it now."
Indiana played its third straight game without freshman guard and leading scorer Romeo Langford. The New Albany native has been out since the beginning of NIT play last week with a back injury.
For a while, the first half was shaping up as the McDuffie show. McDuffie didn't score his first basket until the 10 minute mark with a jumper, but then scored 13 of Wichita State's next 15 points on a mix of drives to the baskets and perimeter shots — helping the Shockers build a 24-13 lead.
Indiana battled back by getting the ball inside to Morgan, who muscled his way to a bank shot to cut Indiana's lead to 26-19. Two free throws from Phinisee then cut Wichita State's lead to 26-21.
But IU was unable to get closer the rest of the half. McDuffie's third 3-pointer of the first half put Wichita State back up 32-23. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Durham, IU's only two 3s of the first half, cut Wichita State's lead to 34-29, before Ricky Torres made a jumper in the paint to put Wichita State up 36-29 at halftime.
The Hoosiers shot just 32.4 percent (11-of-34) from the field in the first half and 40 percent (2-of-5) from 3-point range. IU got off to another slow start, making just three of its first 12 shots from the floor.
Morgan gave the Indiana faithful one final salute as he left the floor. In a season filled with injuries to different players, Morgan was forced to adjust to different lineups and remained solid, finishing the season as IU's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder while appearing in all 35 games.
"The fans were always great," Morgan said. "Even through all the adversity I've been through all four years, they were always right there behind us.
"There was never any question if I was leaving it out there, all out there day in and day out. The results weren't what we wanted, but I couldn't be happier walking off knowing I've done what I had to do."