First seed, first on the floor, first to make a great impression in Arch Madness.
No. 15 Wichita State routed Indiana State 72-48 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at the Scottrade Center. The Shockers erased any concerns about their level of interest in winning this championship in the first 10 minutes. They played with a dive-for-loose-balls desperation more fitting of the eighth seed than a team cruising into an NCAA Tournament berth.
That’s not the way the Shockers (27-4) think. They won their ninth straight game by burying the eighth-seeded Sycamores (18-14) under a 20-3 lead. WSU plays in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. semifinal against Illinois State.
“We wanted to come out and set an example, and you’ve got to do that on the defensive end,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “Everybody on this team was buying into the getting on the floor first.”
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WSU’s defense knocked the Sycamores off-stride immediately. Dwayne Lathan walked on Indiana State’s first possession. Carl Richard took Indiana State’s first shot and missed everything from three-point range. A steal by Toure Murry got Williams a layup for for a 7-0 lead. A few minutes later, Murry stole the ball and dove to beat Jake Odum to the loose ball. After another Murry deflection, Joe Ragland went to the floor to grab the ball and pass ahead to Murry for a layup and a 28-7 lead.
“The first one on the floor usually wins championships and wins the game,” Murry said. “Usually, I’m not known as a guy that gets on the floor, so I think that really helped defensively.”
WSU’s defensive burst left the Sycamores shaken. They recovered briefly after halftime, but never seriously threatened.
“I felt like they were on top of everything we wanted to do,” Richard said. “They took away our strength, and we just didn’t come back with any type of resistance.”
The Sycamores missed nine of their first 10 shots, six of the misses from three-point range. The Shockers contested most shots and sealed off the lane. The Sycamores shot 26.9 percent from the field, missing 17 of 22 threes. No Sycamore reached double figures.
“We probably settled for too many threes in the first half,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “When a team is pressuring you, it’s easy to stand outside the three-point arc and fire those.”
Williams’ effort on Odum kicked off WSU’s defensive effort. Odum finished with six points on 2-of-9 shooting, along with two turnovers and one assist. WSU limited his creative forays into the lane, either by contesting his shots or covering up potential targets. With Odum ineffective, the Sycamore offense never revved up. Center Myles Walker only took four shots, leaving Indiana State to try and compete with jumpers.
“We just tried to put a lot of pressure and clog up everything in the paint and close out on shooters,” Ragland said. “We did a real good job of that the first 20 minutes.”
Ragland and Murry both scored 14 points to lead the Shockers, who shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent (7 of 14) from three-point range. Williams added 10 points.
The Shockers led 40-19 at halftime after outscoring Indiana State 20-2 in the paint. The Sycamores cut the lead to 40-28, helped by six straight Shockers misses to start the second half. Then Ragland made a three off a screen by Carl Hall. Within two minutes, WSU built the lead back to 20 and fans started chanting “This is our house.”
Not yet. By Sunday, that may be the case.