Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet’s pre-game message usually hits the same theme — the opponent is in their way, an obstacle to more banners, rings and trophies.
“We’ve just got to get them out of the way,” forward Rashard Kelly said. “As Fred always says before the game, ‘Everybody is blocking what we want to achieve as a team.’ ”
With that on their minds, the Shockers are streaking unopposed into historic territory.
On Wednesday, the 22nd-ranked Shockers brushed aside Loyola 80-54 to win their 10th straight game.
It also their 42nd straight home victory and 23rd straight at home against an MVC opponent.
It moved coach Gregg Marshall within one victory of matching former coach Ralph Miller atop the program’s career list. Miller won 220 games in 13 seasons from 1951-64; Marshall stands at 219 in nine seasons after Wednesday’s win.
If all this accounting seems familiar, it should remind fans of 2013-14, when the Shockers won 35 straight and went 18-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
On Sunday, WSU (15-5, 9-0 MVC) plays at Evansville in what might be its toughest obstacle to another unbeaten run through an overwhelmed Valley. WSU is 9-0 in the Valley for the third straight year and only Evansville, 67-64 losers at Koch Arena, kept the margin under 16 points.
Shaq Morris led WSU with 12 points Wednesday, his third straight game in double figures. He is 14 of 18 from the field in those three games. Rashard Kelly scored 11 points, Conner Frankamp added nine points off the bench and Ron Baker grabbed seven rebounds.
VanVleet recorded eight assists to move into 10th on the MVC’s career list with 552. The Shockers handed out a season-high 22 assists on their 28 baskets to blend together an offensive attack that sliced up Loyola’s defense with sharp and unselfish passing.
“Other than one four-minute segment, we were really good in the second half,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We were moving the ball and cutting and passing it and slashing as well as we have all year.”
Loyola (9-12, 2-7) shot 20 of 51 (39 percent) from the field and committed 14 turnovers.
Montel James led the Ramblers with 11 points. The Shockers held leading scorer Milton Doyle to six points, five below his average, on 2-of-10 shooting.
“It’s easy to say we didn’t play well,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “The reality is they make you play bad. They make you do it with their pressure, with their toughness.”
WSU led 37-24 at halftime. It blew the game open with a 7-0 run midway through the second half, capped by Frankamp’s three-pointer for a 56-36 lead.
Wichita State, like it did Saturday against Bradley, cooked up a dominant defensive peformance to start the game.
It held the Ramblers scoreless until the 16:27 mark of the first half. Loyola didn’t make a basket until James dunked with 14:51 to play. The Shockers led 8-4 and soon expanded their edge to 18-6.
Loyola made 8 of 29 shots in the first half and committed five turnovers. James, who made 4 of 8 shots, was the lone Rambler to make more than one basket. Doyle went 0 for 6, although he did record three assists.
WSU made 13 of 23 shots and out-rebounded Loyola 22-18 in the first half. Seven turnovers kept the Shockers from making the lead larger.
Evan Wessel scored eight first-half points, his most in a game since he scored eight against Nevada on Dec. 22. Markis McDuffie and Frankamp both added six points off the bench.