KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wichita State’s second-half team showed up 20 minutes early and turned Monday’s night CBE Classic semifinal into a rout.
The 12th-ranked Shockers took over late in the first half, using turnovers and layups to extend their lead, on their way to a 90-72 win over DePaul at the Sprint Center. They will try to win a regular-season tournament for a second straight year against BYU at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
In its first five games, WSU (6-0) often waited until the second half to play their best stretches. Monday’s late game did not translate to a late start for the Shockers. They made 63.3 percent of their shots in the first half and cooled off slightly to 54.5 in the second half. No matter what DePaul (3-2) tried, the Shockers scored and scored again.
WSU scored a whopping 50 points in the paint, most on layups and dunks surrendered way too easily by the Blue Demons. A year ago, WSU dispatched DePaul 75-62 in the semifinal of the Cancun Challenge before beating Iowa to win its first in-season tournament away from Wichita since the 1963-64 season.
“They sent a lot of guys to the glass on offense so we got a lot of opportunities in transition,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “They pressed a lot and, with any type of pressure, once you crack the first shell, the inside is kind of soft. It just started adding more. They more they extended, the more we just kept attacking.”
Guard Ron Baker led WSU with 21 points to match is career high set Wednesday at Tulsa. Tekele Cotton added 17 points and Cleanthony Early 15. The Shockers committed a mere six turnovers, which gave them plenty of chances to exploit DePaul’s porous defense.
Guard Brandon Young led DePaul with 16 points. The Blue Demons missed 13 of 19 three-pointers and committed 11 turnovers on a night their offense needed to play much more efficiently to keep up with WSU.
WSU led 22-21 when it started a 16-0 run fueled by bad decisions by the Blue Demons. DePaul, frazzled by WSU’s half-court trap, turned the ball over on five straight possessions. When DePaul shot, the Shockers rebounded and beat defenders down court for layups. DePaul’s defense, even when set and organized, failed to keep WSU out of the lane and allowed 28 points in the paint in the first half.
“The key was getting to the rim and putting them in stressful situations,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
Baker’s free throws started the run. He made two of three after getting fouled on a three-pointer. After an airball by Cleveland Melvin, Early’s three-pointer gave WSU a 27-21 lead.
Then WSU’s defense, which hadn’t applied much pressure, took over. VanVleet ripped the ball away from freshman guard Billy Garrett. The turnover led to a three-point play by Tekele Cotton. Chadrack Lufile intercepted a post pass and the Shockers sped downcourt for a layup by Baker and a 32-21 lead.
“Our guys were really good in attack mode,” Marshall said.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell called timeout, trying to stop WSU’s momentum and quiet the pro-Shocker crowd.
His team responded with an offensive foul when Crockett pushed Baker. The Blue Demons tried a zone defense to stop WSU’s drives and Cotton dribbled through watching defenders for a layup and a 34-21 lead. Crockett took a poorly planned turnaround jumper, leading to another WSU basket. WSU led 38-21 before the Blue Demons scored, on Sandy Marcius’ follow of his miss, to stop the run.
The Shockers kept coming, turning bad DePaul shots and long rebounds into layups. Kadeem Coleby dunked on a lob pass from Baker for a 42-28 lead. Cotton scored after a long rebound for a 46-30 lead.
WSU closed the half with a 6-0 run to go up 52-34 at halftime. It made 19 of 30 shots and scored 13 points off eight Blue Demon turnovers. Cotton led WSU with 13 first-half points. Early and Baker each added 11.
DePaul center Tommy Hamilton IV scored nine points in the first half.
WSU kept scoring with ease in the second half and gave itself plenty of room to beat back DePaul’s runs. DePaul scored five straight points to cut the lead to 56-42. WSU answered with Coleby’s two-handed dunk when he slipped a screen and ran to the basket for a pass from VanVleet.
DePaul cut the lead to 64-51 before a 10-1 run, highlighted by Baker’s reverse layup, gave WSU a 74-52 lead.
WSU plays BYU (5-1) in Tuesday’s 9 p.m. championship game. DePaul meets Texas (4-1) at 6:30 p.m.