Wichita State hasn’t lowered its expectations with three starters injured. Now the Missouri Valley Conference knows why.
The Shockers routed Northern Iowa, picked third in the preseason poll, 66-41 on Sunday at Koch Arena. WSU’s defense blanketed UNI’s three-point shooters and an efficient offense did the rest in a victory surprising for its ease over an experienced team with a reputation for toughness.
WSU senior Demetric Williams hopes everybody who voted the Shockers fourth in the preseason poll pays attention. And everybody who further dismissed the Shockers (12-1, 1-0 MVC) because of the injury problems.
“We’re ready to show everybody we’re not fourth in this league,” Williams said. “There’s still a lot of guys on this team.”
All nine of them helped bury the Panthers (7-6, 0-1). Starters Carl Hall, Ron Baker and Evan Wessel watched from the bench, but UNI coach Ben Jacobson saw little difference from the team he watched with a full roster and the current edition.
WSU held the Panthers, who entered the game making 37.1 percent of their three-pointers, to 3-of-17 shooting from behind the arc.
“Their defense and rebounding hasn’t changed with what’s happened with some of the injuries,” Jacobson said.
Cleanthony Early led WSU with 16 points, 11 in the first half. Malcolm Armstead added 14. The Shockers scored 22 points in the lane, mostly using their quickness to shoot layups.
Armstead handed out five assists and disrupted UNI’s defense with his drives. WSU made 46 percent of its shots, committed 10 turnovers — second-lowest amount this season — and made 14 of 20 free throws.
No Panther reached double figures. Jake Koch led UNI with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting. Guard Deon Mitchell, UNI’s leading scorer at 12.4 points, scored four. Guard Marc Sonnen, making 43.7 percent of his threes, went 0 for 2 and scored two points.
“That was as well as we’ve played for 40 minutes defensively in some time, and that’s the way it’s going to have to be,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
WSU pulled away slowly in the first half to build a 30-18 lead. Then it decisively won the start of the second half and never allowed the Panthers to make a move.
Ehimen Orukpe started WSU’s second-half burst with a dunk. Armstead’s three made it 35-19. Then he stripped the ball from Seth Tuttle, leading to a layup for Williams. A jumper by Tekele Cotton extended WSU’s lead to 39-19 and the Panthers didn’t get closer than 14 the rest of the way.
“We didn’t get baskets on our first couple of possessions, and coming out of halftime, I felt like we needed to to get the score under 10,” Jacobson said. “We weren’t scoring at all. Had we got it under 10, you’ve got a reasonable chance.”
The Shockers, even with the comfy lead at halftime, never wavered. They pushed the lead to 30 late in the game.
“Ehimen got that dunk, and I felt like it took the momentum from them,” Williams said. “We didn’t have any scoring droughts. We kept our defense the same.”
WSU’s defense dominated the first half by covering up UNI’s shooters and protecting the lane. The Panthers made 1 of 6 threes in the first half and 7of 25 shots.
Armstead set up the offense with his drives to the basket. He fed Early for WSU’s first basket and he sliced through the defense for a layup. UNI couldn’t stay with Early, either. He scored 11 first-half points, making 5 of 6 shots.
The Shockers built their lead midway through the half with an 11-2 run capped by Early’s left-handed layup for a 23-11 lead. After the Panthers closed to within 23-14, Williams sank a long three to start a 7-2 run that pushed the lead to 30-16.
|WICHITA ST. 66, N. IOWA 41|
Percentages: FG .326, FT .800. 3-Point Goals: 3-17, .176 (Rank 2-5, Koch 1-3, James 0-1, Morrison 0-1, Mitchell 0-1, Bohannon 0-1, Sonnen 0-2, Buss 0-3). Team Rebounds: 7. Blocked Shots: 1 (Buss). Turnovers: 12 (Mitchell 4, Pehl 2, Tuttle 2, Bohannon, Morrison, Koch, Sonnen). Steals: 3 (James, Rank, Koch). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .460, FT .700. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Armstead 2-3, Williams 1-1, Cotton 1-2, Early 1-4, White 1-5, Van Vleet 0-1, Wiggins 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 4 (Orukpe 2, Lufile, Early). Turnovers: 10 (Armstead 4, Early 2, White, Wiggins, Orukpe, Cotton). Steals: 9 (Armstead 3, Van Vleet 2, Lufile, Wiggins, Williams, Cotton). Technical Fouls: None.
Att.–10,506. Officials–Mike Stuart, Tom Eades, Mark Whitehead.