Key statistics: The Shockers out-rebounded the Ramblers 23-10 in the second half and grabbed eight offensive rebounds to score 11 second-chance points. WSU guard Fred VanVleet shot the ball 16 times and it went in all 16, six from the field (all inside the arc) and 10 from the line. While the Ramblers made 46 percent of their shots, they missed 13 of 18 from three-point range. In the previous seven MVC home games, they made 41.6 percent of their threes.
How the game turned: Two three-point plays by WSU’s Chadrack Lufile built a 50-36 lead early in the second half. Lufile’s and-ones highlighted an 11-4 run that ended Loyola’s momentum after it cut the lead to seven points.
Records: WSU 28-0, 15-0; LU 9-18, 4-11
- WSU won its 15th MVC game, 12 by 11 or more points and all 12 with margins between 11 and 22. The other three margins are 3, 7 and 9. Wednesday’s win and Syracuse’s loss to No. 169 RPI Boston College at home speak to what make the Shockers – consistency. They play the game the same way (with rare exceptions) no matter the score. They’ve got their way of playing and no team (other than Missouri State) knocked them off course for significant amounts of time. That starts with Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton, who excel at staying the course, setting up teammates and getting the best shot possible time after time. They all own assist-to-turnover ratios of 1.9 or higher.
- The game is always played at the speed VanVleet wants it be played, which is why the Shockers will be so solid as a No. 1 seed in March. To appreciate that, you probably have to watch the Shockers regularly. They aren’t on national TV often and without frequent viewings, you may not appreciate the efficiency of a 14-point win at Loyola. The 2012 Shockers embarrassed teams because that was a great scoring machine (except against VCU). This team isn’t as good in the lane and isn’t as blessed with outside shooters. It just keeps coming, answering baskets and waiting for mistakes to open a gap. “Every single night in college basketball, when you’re playing another Division I program, is a potential loss, especially on the road,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “These guys find a way.”
- The Shockers are dominating the MVC with their size and strength. Loyola coach Porter Moser wants it known their success isn’t just about talent. The way they use that talent explains their unbeaten record. “There’s a lot of talented teams in the country, so you don’t just want to say ‘Oh, they’re talented,’” he said. “They’re talented, but they’re special with their intangibles.” You can look at several plays that fit that description from Wednesday.The play that Cleanthony Early made midway through the second half fits. He dove on the floor for a loose ball, flipped it to a teammate, when the Shockers led 63-50. It’s easy to win when your most talented player is willing to get dirty in a game everybody knows is won.
- WSU won’t be on national TV this week and hasn’t since Feb. 8 (although ESPN3 alleviates that issue somewhat). The Shockers continue to exist as somewhat of a mystery team, largely unseen by fans outside Wichita and the MVC states. No doubt that fuels some of the skepticism.
- While there’s no doubt the MVC is down, there is also no doubt there are nine coaches trying to change that, tired of watching the Shockers win easily. Some of the coaches have been to the neighborhood where WSU resides and trying to get back. Can the Shockers elevate this entire conference? Moser said that is the way it needs to work. “As hard as it is to play them, I love playing them,” he said. “This is where we want to be. If you have any competitive juices in you, you want to know who you’re chasing. That’s who everybody is chasing. They have a high standard with what they do.”
- After a start at Evansville, forward Darius Carter returned to a reserve role and again flourished. He scored 13 points,making 5 of 8 shots, and grabbed five rebounds. He came off the bench in the two games before Evansville and scored 15 and 12 points, making 11 of 14 shots. In the start, he played 12 minutes and didn’t score. While Carter was productive as a starter earlier in the season, he likes coming off the bench. While the scouting report prepares Carter for WSU’s plan and tells him about his opponent’s best moves and weak spots, he said it helps to see things in person. “You get a better feel for the game, sitting over there watching and seeing what’s going on,” he said. “It’s humbling and motivating.”
- Early scored 18 points in 21 minutes, making 5 of 8 shots and all six of his free throws. His road accuracy continues to be amazing. In eight MVC road games, he is 45 of 84 (53 percent) from the field and 17 of 34 (50 percent) from three. Those are crazy numbers for home games. Doing it on the road, where many players shrink, speaks to his confidence and skill. The same goes for VanVleet, who averages 4.5 assists and 1.3 turnovers in MVC road games.
- Jamie Thompson made all nine of his shots and all 10 of his free throws in a 1965 win over No. 2 Michigan. VanVleet’s 6-for-6 and 10-for-10 night might be next in line.
- The Shockers clinched a share of their eighth MVC title and should win it outright on Saturday at home against Drake (just like 2012). Marshall joins Gene Smithson (1978-86) as the only WSU coaches with two MVC titles. Ralph Miller won in1964, Gary Thompson in 1965 and Harry Miller in 1976. Smithson’s teams won it in 1981 and 1983. Mark Turgeon in 2006.
- My first impression of Loyola is positive in a big-picture way. The campus is impressive, by far the most striking in the MVC, unless you don’t like the big city. Beautiful buildings. Great view. Active campus – I got out of the arena at 11:30 p.m. and students were all over and the campus buzzed. With a med school, a law school and an enrollment of 16,000, Loyola has plenty of resources, resources that dwarf many MVC schools. It is devoting more to athletics with upgraded facilities and budgets. If that continues, and if the money is spent on the right people and things, Loyola can be a top-level MVC school. It’s not there yet and it’s not clear if how quickly it wants to get there. If it doesn’t improve, it will be because money wasn’t spent or wasn’t spent wisely. “I’m excited for what (Moser) can do,” Marshall said. “If they support him, and they put money into it …”
- Kellen Marshall picked Adrian Peterson (No. 28) for the game’s theme.
Next up: vs. Drake, 7 p.m. (Cox 22)