PEORIA, Ill. — Wichita State players know how to quiet their coach, who likes to wear them out about their struggles in road arenas.
Win on the road, and coach Gregg Marshall will move to another topic. The Shockers can cross Bradley’s Carver Arena off Marshall’s list after Saturday’s 79-63 win over the Braves.
“He tells you about every time they beat you in the last 50 years,” WSU senior Gabe Blair said. “Now we’ve got to hear it about our next opponent on the road. We’ve got to bottle this up and bring it with us.”
That task is much easier with a full roster filling Blair’s symbolic glassware. WSU’s bench scored 42 points and made foul trouble a minor irritant. The Shockers knew their depth would win out eventually. They kept working until they broke free of Bradley’s zone defenses with a 20-5 run in the second half.
“They bring in guys that are being awfully productive,” Bradley coach Jim Les. “I thought we did a really good job in the first half of getting them in foul trouble. Yet they're still in the game because their bench comes in. That's the sign of a really good team.”
The Shockers (11-2 overall) are 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Bradley (6-7, 0-2) lost for the seventh time in nine games.
David Kyles led WSU with 13 points, 11 in the second half. Blair came off the bench to score 11 points and grab nine rebounds. Ben Smith, coming off a career-high 16 points in Wednesday’s win over Evansville, added 10 in a reserve role. Starter J.T. Durley contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.
In their past two trips to Carver Arena, the Shockers trailed by double-digits in the second half. Last season, they tied it in the final minutes before losing by two points.
WSU chased away those frustrations with a strong second half. The Shockers shot 52.6 percent from the field and outscored the Braves 46-31 after halftime. Joe Ragland’s last-second jumper gave WSU a 33-32 lead at halftime and it never trailed again.
“As bad as we played in the first half, we were still up one,” WSU guard Toure Murry said. “Two years ago, maybe we would have let the game go away. We stayed together and we kept fighting.”
Bradley slowed the first half by changing defenses, drawing fouls and keeping the Shockers in an uncomfortable half-court game. Bradley went 10 of 14 from the line, courtesy of 14 WSU fouls. Four starters (all except Kyles) and reserve Garrett Stutz ended the half with two fouls.
“Just silly stuff,” Marshall said. “We were really grabbing and holding. Really, really silly stuff.”
Still, it didn’t really matter. WSU’s reserves never faltered. Bradley, with three players playing 30 or more minutes, lost energy in the second half.
The Shockers wanted a fast-paced game and finally got their way after halftime. Kyles started to break down the Braves with a steal and dunk that ignited his scoring. It put WSU up 37-34 and energized the Shockers.
“I noticed in the first half, out of their out of bound play, they kind of throw the ball automatically — they don’t even look, they just turn and throw it,” he said. “I figured I would pick one before the game was over. I chose that time to do it, because we needed some stops.”
WSU took over when Kyles heated up and three-pointers started to fall. He hit his first three of the game for a 44-38 lead. His baseline jumper made it 46-40. After a turnover, he scored on a drive to make it 50-42.
Stutz, after a deflection, passed to Smith for a corner three and a 53-42 lead with 10:40 to play. Blair scored on an inbound play, then Joe Ragland’s three put the Shockers up 58-42.
The Shockers continued that run to lead 62-45 on a follow dunk by Aaron Ellis. Murry found Smith open for a layup with a pretty no-look pass for a 64-45 lead with 6:45 to play.
By then, the Shockers had sucked all the life out of the Braves and the crowd. Fans amused themselves by yelling at Shocker coaches, the only people making noise.
The Shockers focused their defense on Bradley guard Andrew Warren, who finished with 26 points, making 7 of 16 shots. Dyricus Simms-Edwards added 15, the only other Brave in double figures. Bradley’s bench players went 1 for 8 from the field and totaled four points.