Eye test, road test, BracketBusters test — Wichita State passed them all on Saturday with a 91-74 win at Davidson. Surely, members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee watched. Surely, the win confirmed the growing notion that WSU isn’t just a tournament team, it’s a tournament team worthy of a favorable seed.
“When you can win, especially by this margin in this building, you’ve made something happen,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “It keeps our win streak intact in front of the selection committee and it gives us a quality win.”
Marshall won game No. 300 in his 14 seasons with a second-half performance worthy of a landmark win. The Shockers (24-4) made 20 of 25 shots in the second half, blowing open a close game with points on 10 straight possessions. WSU ran a layup line against Davidson (20-7), the Southern Conference leader, and scored 58 points in the lane without a monster contribution from center Garrett Stutz.
Joe Ragland scored 30 points for the 24th-ranked Shockers, 18 in the second half. Toure Murry added 16 points and six assists and those two got WSU’s fastbreak rolling in the second half.
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“When you take bad shots, that leads to easy run-outs,” Davidson center Jake Cohen said. “They’re a good transition team and we knew it was going to be a challenge. If we can make them take the ball out of the net, that’s the first way to stop their transition.”
Neither team could string together defensive stops in the first 25 minutes. When the Shockers did, they pulled away. WSU’s surge started when Carl Hall and Stutz surrounded Davidson’s De’Mon Brooks and forced an awkward shot.
That gave the Shockers the signal to run. Murry found David Kyles for a layup.
Then Hall contested a jumper by Brooks and WSU turned that miss into a layup by Demetric Williams for a 60-51 lead.
“Shooting 80 percent is not easy to overcome,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “There was a six-minutes stretch in which we took some premature shots. Those several possessions allowed them to get in the open court and get some easy baskets.”
On it went with the Shocker jets blowing by the Wildcats. Murry got a layup after a missed three for a 66-54 lead. Ragland drove to the rim untouched for a layup on a set play. He did it again, late in the shot clock, for a 77-61 lead to cap a streak of 10 scores on 10 possessions.
“When these guys get revved up, it’s some beautiful basketball to watch,” Marshall said. “All of a sudden, that lead, boom, it just mushroomed.”
Stepping out of conference play brings some hazards. The Shockers overplayed the three-pointer in the first half and allowed driving by the Wildcats. Davidson took Stutz out of the offense with aggressive double teams and attacked him on defense with Cohen making threes.
The Shockers adjusted in the second half. They kept the Wildcats out of the lane. Foul trouble benched Cohen for most of the half, even though he scored 25 points in 19 minutes. In the game’s final 15 minutes, the Shockers used their experience and quickness to disrupt almost everything Davidson does.
“We just wanted to make them feel us a little more and put some pressure on them,” Ragland said.
WSU expanded its lead to 84-61 on Ragland’s jumper with 4:49 remaining.
“We were scoring the ball at a great pace,” Murry said. “Once we got those stops, we were in good hands.”
Cohen kept his team in the game early. The Wildcats trailed 8-2 when he converted a three-point play. He made a long three over Stutz to tie the game. Cohen scored Davidson’s first 12 points, one behind WSU.
The Shockers took a 34-29 lead on Carl Halls three-point play with 4:06 remaining. After a Davidson miss, Stutz charged, trying to navigate through a double team. Threes by Chris Czerapowicz and Nik Cochran gave Davidson a 35-34 lead.
Ragland led WSU with 12 points in the first half, 10 of them coming in the final eight minutes.Cochran scored 13 for Davidson, six coming at the foul line.