PEORIA, Ill. —Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall liked the way his team practiced over the holiday break. He loved the way the Shockers played Wednesday.
Wichita State ended an eight-day layoff with 90-51 rout of Bradley at Carver Arena. The Shockers started Missouri Valley Conference play by making history with its margin of victory.
"They broke us," Bradley coach Geno Ford said. "At some point we accepted it. That's the troubling part."
WSU (10-2, 1-0 MVC) handed Bradley (5-8, 0-1) its worst home defeat in 108 seasons, its second-biggest defeat, worst loss in 60 seasons in the MVC and its worst loss in the 126-game series against the Shockers.
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All this from a team that had every excuse for an average effort. The Shockers, who hadn't played a competitive foe since Dec. 10, could hardly be blamed for overlooking Bradley with No. 21 Creighton coming to Koch Arena on Saturday.
"We knew we were on the road and we knew it was a Valley game, so we had to come out strong," WSU junior Carl Hall said. "We're hungry."
The Shockers took hope from Bradley without delay. Toure Murry drove past freshman Shayok Shayok for a layup on the game's first possession. On the second, Hall missed a shot and tore the rebound away from two Braves to score. After a Bradley basket, Hall followed in another miss for a 6-2 lead.
Murry got another layup after Hall and Garrett Stutz combined for an offensive rebound, giving WSU an 8-4 lead. Stutz scored inside to make it 10-4. Stutz dunked after Murry rebounded his own miss, putting WSU up 14-6.
"They were big and strong enough to bully us out of the way," Ford said.
WSU grabbed six rebounds in the first four minutes, four on the offensive glass. It led the rebound battle 25-19 at half and 50-32 for the game. WSU scored 48 points in the lane and 26 second-chance points. Stutz finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Hall added 10 points and eight rebounds.
"I was just trying to control the glass and get my team second chances," Hall said.
The rest of the game became notable because the Shockers refused to let up. The lead grew, and WSU rarely gave into the temptation to take it easy. Marshall played his deep reserves extensively, and they kept the pressure on.
Far from being offended, Ford was impressed.
"Usually if you get down in a game, the other team, at some point, goes to sleep and you make a run," Ford said. "Even if you're not playing well, you'll make a little mini-run. They had us down, and there was no chance they were going to lighten up. They were mad when we scored. That's the sign of a great team."
Marshall has seen this before. The Shockers opened MVC play a year ago with a 91-57 win over Evansville, a game in which he paused to tell his team how beautifully it played during a timeout. WSU duplicated that effort on Wednesday with a dominant performance on the road.
Bradley's effort in a 77-66 loss at then-No. 19 Michigan helped put the Shockers on alert.
"Our focus was good," Marshall said. "Our shoot around (Wednesday) was good. We were bouncy. Hopefully, we can continue with that."
While WSU dismantled Bradley, Creighton lost at home to defending MVC champion Missouri State. That likely doesn't make WSU's job any easier. It does give the Shockers an early opportunity to grab an edge in the MVC race.