Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton kept talking about how Wichita State played like a top-10 team. He meant the second half, when the Shockers unleashed a fearsome fast break and did indeed look like a team that deserves its lofty ranking.
No. 11 Wichita State is 9-0 for a second straight season after it shook off a rotten first half to handle Oral Roberts 71-58 on Saturdaynight at Koch Arena.
In the first half, ORU (5-4) turned the game into a half-court slog and the Shockers couldnt break free of a solid man-to-man defensive team. In the second half, the Shockers ran free for almost 20 minutes. They piled up 49 second-half points by making 54.1 percent of their shots. They made 10 layups and four more shots within a few feet of the basket.
When ORU missed a shot, the Shockers rolled down court and scored. When ORU turned the ball over, the Shockers rolled down court and scored. Golden Eagles coach Scott Sutton tried to stop the points and quiet the crowd with timeouts.
You dont make shots, you turn the ball over and it feeds right into their transition game, Sutton said. Theyre athletic and theyve got good guards and their big guys can run. I did call timeouts, but next thing you know youve dug yourself a huge hole.
The 9-0 start equals the best start in program history. The Shockers, who will play Tennessee at Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday, trailed 30-22 at halftime, their largest deficit of the season at the break. It didnt last long, buried in a 14-2 run that permanently turned the momentum. The Shockers got rolling by catching ORU unorganized. They scored layups on fast breaks and moved the ball crisply to open threes before defenders could catch shooters.
Good defenses are going to be good when the defense is set, WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. We got a few stops and some runouts and its hard to guard that in transition. Its hard to guard that in transition, especially with the type of talent we have.
The Shockers can beat teams on the break with VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton pushing the ball and finding their teammates. Cleanthony Early got loose for two three-pointers early in the second half and a thunderous dunk on a pass from Cotton. Chadrack Lufile is faster than most big men and figuring out how to beat them for a spot in the lane.
In the second half, we gave up way too many easy baskets, Sutton said. They showed why theyre a top-10 team.
Early led WSU with 16 points, 11 in the second half, and Lufile added a career-high 14 points. Bakers four-game stretch of 20-point games ended and VanVleet took the night off from scoring big to hand out six assists with no turnovers. Even without their guards in high scoring gear, the Shockers scored plenty.
WSU made nine of its first 12 shots in the second half after making 6 of 27 shots in the first half. Lufile also played the role of stopper, cooling off ORUs Shawn Glover in the second half. Glover finished with 22 points, eight in the second half on 3-of-10 shooting.
Shawn Glovers a tremendous scorer, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. Lufile was really, really good on Glover. He leaned on him. He denied him the basketball. He was really physical with him.
WSU started the second half on a 14-2 run with Early making two threes to shake off the first-half rust. His three from the corner cut ORUs lead to 30-27. After his three from the wing cut ORUs lead to two, Cottons layup tied the game 32-all and forced an ORU timeout with 16:33 remaining. Lufiles layup gave WSU a 34-32 lead. After a Cotton steal, he fed Early for a dunk and a 36-32 lead, bringing the crowd into the game full-force.
We had to get off to a good start in the second half, Sutton said. We knew they would make a run. We knew the crowd would get into it. They were too good and our guys didnt respond very well.
Glovers short jumper ended the run briefly. The Shockers kept coming, turning any mistake or missed shot into a fast break. Baker made a three over a defender. Lufile converted a pick-and-roll bounce pass from VanVleet for a 41-36 lead. Then Lufile ran the floor for a layup on a break for a 43-36 edge and ORU needed another timeout.
That did little to stop the avalanche. WSUs 6-0 run gave it a 49-37 lead. With Lufile and Carter clamping down on Glover, ORUs offense faded. He missed 4 of his first 6 shots in the second half and no teammates stepped up to help.
The Shockers muddled through the first half. They got little from their big men, forcing the guards to do most of the work. That resulted in some forced shots and WSU missed all seven of its three-pointers.
Its bad when you know exactly how you scored baskets in a half, Marshall said. They took it to us in the first half.
WSU took its first lead at 16-15 after Early dove to the floor to pick up a loose ball deflected by Lufile. Lufiles layup got the crowd on its feet. Bakers free throws gave WSU an 18-15 lead, but the momentum evaporated quickly.
ORUs D.J. Jackson tied the game with a three and the Golden Eagles scored on four possessions to take a 24-18 lead. ORU led 30-22 at halftime after Glover made two free throws in the final second. Glover burned a series of defenders for 14 points in the first half, taking on Early, Carter and Evan Wessel.