Key statistics: Wichita State committed three turnovers in the first half and Fred VanVleet scored 14 points, eight in the final 3:08 to help WSU lead 38-24 at halftime.
Records: ISU 12-13, 8-5 MVC; WSU 22-3, 12-1
How the game turned: The Shockers didn’t make a basket in the first 3:56 of the second half, yet the Sycamores couldn’t narrow the gap significantly from 14 points. WSU’s first basket of the half made it 42-28 and Indiana State didn’t get closer than 10 points.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU won its 30th straight home game, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation. WSU is tied for eighth in MVC history with Bradley (1979-81). WSU has won 16 straight MVC games in Koch Arena.
Stat that might surprise you: WSU guard Ron Baker scored a season-low five points. He scored nine against George Washington in Hawaii, his only other game below 10.
Next up: at Illinois State, 5 p.m., Saturday (ESPN2)
▪ Baker didn’t shoot the ball well and the Shocker cruised. Almost everybody else got hot, in part because of Baker’s pull on the defense, which freed him to make plays in other ways. WSU coach Gregg Marshall pointed to a Baker hustle play early in the game as a vital part of a 17-2 run that established control for the Shockers.
WSU led 21-16 when Fred VanVleet missed a shot near the basket and the ball bounced along the baseline. Baker dove from the corner and tipped it to VanVleet, who drew a foul. He made both foul shots for a 23-16 lead that eventually expanded to 32-18 before Indiana State recovered a bit.
Why does almost every opposing coach talk about how hard WSU plays and how the Shockers play the game the right way? Because WSU’s best player makes plays like that one.
“Bake didn’t have his best night tonight, but that was a big play,” Marshall said. “I do remember that play vividly.”
▪ When Sycamores coach Greg Lansing was asked if it’s better to try to make VanVleet into a scorer or a passer, he said VanVleet busts up most scouting reports. On Wednesday, he scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
“We have ideas that we want to try to make him do,” Lansing said. “You would probably want him attacking off that dribble to his right hand and trying to finish over bigger defenders. You try to not let him get his rhythm dribble with his left hand and shoot that pullup. He can go either way. He’s strong. He can make threes. He can make pullups. He can get all the way to the basket. It’s tough to have a scouting report for great players.”
VanVleet recognized early that the game opened up for his scoring.
“They were really focusing on Ron and crowding him and sending two and three guys any time he got a good look at the basket,” he said.
▪ Showtime bugged out of Koch Arena earlier this week, disappointing fans who wanted to watch their Shockers in a proposed all-access series. Showtime hasn’t commented yet. WSU had its say here, and raised the possibility that sneaker wars played a part.
The Shockers didn’t seem too concerned.
“I guess that’s their loss,” VanVleet said. “It’s typical. That’s our story, I guess, for the guys we’ve got and the team we’ve got. No hard feelings.”
Darius Carter said “We were going to have some fun with those cameras in the locker room. That’s disappointing.”
▪ It will be interesting to see how Illinois State responds after Wednesday’s 83-64 loss at Northern Iowa. The Panthers routed the Redbirds with an efficiency that will sound familiar. UNI made 54.7 percent of its shots, 12 of 27 three-pointers and led 50-33 at halftime. Against WSU, UNI made 60 percent of its shots.
Lesson: The Panthers shoot at a bigger basket in home games.
I would have considered Illinois State more dangerous coming off a win at UNI with a potential boost of confidence and momentum. Perhaps WSU has a chance to jump on a shaken Redbirds team early. The Redbirds match up well physically with the Shockers, as Drake coach Ray Giacoletti witnessed and they are much more healthy than in the Jan. 4 meeting. Neither DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell nor Deontae Hawkins played in WSU’s 70-62 win at Koch Arena. Center Reggie Lynch played through back pain.
Playing at home against a ranked opponent should energize the Redbirds, unless Wednesday’s rout put a permanent dent in their psyche. Kenpom.com considers this WSU’s toughest remaining game with a 62 percent win probability. The season-ender vs. UNI is a 65 percent win probability.