The top of WSU’s rotation had plenty of time to enjoy Satuday’s rout. No starter played more than 27 minutes.Score: WSU 73, Bradley 39
Key stats: The Shockers out-rebounded Bradley 44-21 for the game and held the Braves to 6-of-21 shooting in the second half.
How the game turned: Demetric Williams’ steal and layup at the end of the first half stretched WSU’s lead to nine points, when it had been three with 1:37 to play, and set the stage for a second-half rout.
Records: WSU 19-2, 8-1 MVC; BU 12-8, 4-4
WSU’s bench provided its most complete and convincing performance of the conference season. Four of the five reserves played 17 minutes or more and all of them played well. Nick Wiggins led WSU with 12 points and his shooting helped turn the game into a laugher. Jake White scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Fred VanVleet handed out five assists with one turnover, plus six points and five rebounds. Carl Hall’s below-average production of seven points and six rebounds fit in just fine. The Shocker bench outscored Bradley’s 30-5 in the second half. “When they sub, they don’t have a drop-off,” Braves coach Geno Ford said. “They are getting an interjection of performance and production, and we’re just not getting it at the same level.”The Shockers gratefully took that bench performance. The starters rested in the second half, none playing more than 27 minutes. That is a gift, especially with a short turnaround for Tuesday’s game against third-place Indiana State at Koch Arena. “That’s real cool,” WSU starter Cleanthony Early said. “It gives you some time to rest. A couple of guys are feeling like they’ve been getting sick and stuff like that, a little virus going around.”WSU won its 19th straight game at Koch Arena. Its record for consecutive home wins is 22, from Feb. 18, 1982 to Dec. 20, 1983.The Braves doubled off Tekele Cotton, sending a guard to help on the post. Marshall liked how Cotton reacted, cutting to the basket as instructed. He got shots in the lane, drew some fouls and avoided the long jumpers which haven’t fallen in recent games. “He had to be that cutter, because they’re basically leaving him alone,” Marshall said. “So he dove, where he’s in more comfortable, in his range.”WSU guard Malcolm Armstead has 15 assists and six turnovers in the past three games (8 and 2 Saturday). He handed out four first-half assists, all before the 4-minute mark, when the Shockers were locked in a half-court slog with the Braves.As expected, the return of Hall helped WSU’s free throws. In his four games back, WSU attempted free throws in three. In the past two games, WSU outscored its opponents 32-14 at the line.Marshall said the explanation on the double-foul in the first half was simple: “Two guys had two different calls,” he said. “They agreed to disagree.” Cotton got a charging foul and Bradley’s Walt Lemon Jr. got a blocking foul.WSU held an opponent under 40 for the first time since a 61-38 win over Drake on Jan. 1, 2010.WSU is on track for a big rise in the polls. Six teams ranked 11-19 lost at least one game last week (No. 11 Kansas State 0-2; No. 12 Minnesota 0-2; No. 15 New Mexico 1-1; No. 17 Creighton 0-1 with a game tonight; No. 18 North Carolina State 1-1; No. 19 VCU 0-2). WSU’s 19 wins are tied for the nation’s lead with Gonzaga. The Zags own one non-Division I win.WSU and Illinois State (both on four-game streaks) are the only teams playing better than Indiana State. The Sycamores have won three of four, losing 60-58 at Illinois State. They are hanging around NCAA at-large relevancy (RPI No. 51). Indiana State owns wins over Miami (Fla.) (No. 3) and Mississippi (No. 31), which could really help in March if paired with a win or two over Creighton and/or the Shockers.
Next up: vs Indiana State, 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox 22)