For 11 games, Wichita State played like a team with something to prove almost every minute. They proved something by winning all except one.
So for the 12th game, it didn't surprised too many people when the Shockers turned in an indifferent effort. WSU defeated North Dakota State 69-57 on Monday at Koch Arena in a game that will quickly be forgotten.
"We were all ready to get it over with," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "Twelve games is a lot of games to play pre-Christmas. Now we get a four-day break."
Four days to savor one of the best starts in Shocker history. Four days to think about the Missouri Valley Conference schedule and avenging some of the indignities of the past two seasons. Four days to replay the highlights from 10 double-digit wins and one over a nationally ranked team.
No, it's no surprise the Shockers eased off the gas in the second half on Monday against the Bison (4-7).
"We've got to do better closing out the games, but we'll do that next time," Shocker guard Toure Murry said.
WSU's 11-1 record puts it in rare company for tantalizing starts to a season. It equaled the 2004-05 team's mark, leaving only the 1982-83 (13-1) and 1953-54 (16-1) teams ahead for piling up victories early from the first jump.
The Shockers did almost all their work in the first 10 minutes with a dominating defensive effort. North Dakota State didn't score until 13:39 remained in the first half. WSU built a 13-0 lead and extended it to 17-2 and 19-6.
The Bison missed nine of their first 10 shots and committed five turnovers in the game's first eight minutes, 11 seconds. It didn't help when point guard Josh Vaughn tweaked his right ankle after one possession. He came out, and the Bison couldn't handle WSU's pressure.
"He's one of our stabilizing guys that's been through it," NDSU coach Saul Phillips said.
Phillips, however, didn't pretend Vaughn's absence made a huge difference. The Shockers disrupted everything the Bison planned to do in the first half, even after Vaughn returned.
"We got swarmed by a pretty good tidal wave of ball pressure," Phillips said. "We've played against some pretty good teams defensively. This was as good as we've seen."
The Shockers led by 18 late in the half and 35-20 at halftime. They pushed that margin to 23 in the second half. A late Bison rally cut it to 11 in the final three minutes.
"We're a good defensive team when we step up and play," WSU guard Clevin Hannah said.
So the Shockers played flat for most of the second half. NDSU outscored them 37-34 and out-rebounded them by one in the half. For the game, the teams were even on the boards, the first time this season WSU hasn't out-rebounded its opponent.
Marshall didn't seem too concerned. He knew people expected a letdown after Saturday's 85-83 win over then-No. 16 Texas Tech. The Shockers survived without injury. If Saturday's win, or travel plans for the holiday, clouded some minds, so be it.
"I think everybody now is ready for Christmas," he said. "We did enough for a 12-point win and not much more than that."
Most thoughts went directly to the start of Missouri Valley Conference play. The Shockers return to campus on Saturday. They play at Illinois State on Dec. 29. The Shockers spent five weeks accumulating a resume that includes nine straight wins, two road wins and a win over a nationally ranked team.
That should make for great conversation with friends and family over the holiday.
"It's a big confidence-builder going into conference, and we need it," junior J.T. Durley said. "This is the best start I've had since I've been here. It feels great."
Murry led WSU with 15 points. Hannah added 10 and seven assists with no turnovers.
Michael Tveidt led the Bison with 14 points.