Key statistics: Loyola, down six points at halftime, made eight baskets in the second half and committed eight turnovers.
Records: LU 13-8, 3-6 MVC; WSU 19-2, 9-0
How the game turned: WSU used a series of dagger three-pointers to demoralize the Ramblers. It started with Fred VanVleet’s to end the first half. WSU’s first three of the second half came off sharp ball movement with passes whipping from Darius Carter to Tekele Cotton to VanVleet to Ron Baker for an open shot in the corner. That gave WSU a 10-point lead. Tevin Glass’ three restored a 10-point lead, 35-25. The Ramblers made a final push, down 46-36, before missing four shots with a chance to get the lead to single digits with around five minutes to play. VanVleet’s three made it 49-36 with 3:07 remaining.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU out-rebounded the smaller Ramblers 33-27 and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. WSU’s Shaq Morris, in particular, looked lively on the offensive glass, although fouls limited his minutes. Glass grabbed three offensive rebounds in nine minutes.
Stat that might surprise you: The teams combined to make 16 of 33 threes (eight each) on a night that seemed defined by defense and missed shots.
Next up: at Northern Iowa (19-2, 8-1), 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
▪ Wichita State scored six fast-break points in a game with few opportunities.
Patient approaches and tough defense sent both teams late in the shot clock numerous times. The Ramblers sent four players back on most shots to slow the Shockers and it worked. But WSU cleared the way for a few breaks at a critical time in the second half to produce a dunk for Cotton (after a Loyola miss) and a layup for VanVleet (after Morris built a wall and forced an awkward shot by Loyola’s Montel James).
“When Ron drives, and he has a straight line, or Tekele drives, they’re so strong they don’t let you back in front of them,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “They go from Point A to Point B very fast. They use their body well. That’s what we’ve talked about in transition, you’ve got to see the front (of their jersey).”
▪ VanVleet set his career-high with 27 points, passing efforts of 22 against Indiana State, Loyola, Bradley and Northern Iowa (all last season).
In those five games, he is 40 of 58 from the field, 12 of 19 from three with 20 assists and five turnovers.
▪ Glass has struggled more than any other newcomer with the transition to NCAA Division I basketball. It appears that if we wrote him off as a contributor this season, perhaps we were premature. He played nine minutes,while the game was being decided, and scored five points and grabbed four rebounds.
That doesn’t mean he will play 19 minutes on Saturday, but it appears Glass is earning a bit more trust. When a Shocker doesn’t play, defense and rebounding is usually the reason why. If Glass is improving on those areas, as well as understanding and executing WSU’s plays, he will earn some minutes.
“The biggest thing he’s got to do is defend and rebound and know what we’re doing out there,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He’s been doing it in practice and he’s been doing it in games. We were going a little offense-defense with he and (Evan) Wessel and (Rashard) Kelly.”
▪ WSU is treating Darius Carter’s back spasms carefully. The Shockers didn’t need him to handle Drake on Sunday and they survived just fine with him playing six minutes against Loyola. The story will be different on Saturday at No. 18 Northern Iowa. The Shockers need Carter’s A game against UNI center Seth Tuttle.
▪ Loyola’s progress impresses me. Moser appears to understand the level of athlete he needs to win in the MVC and he can land them. The Ramblers need to get bigger and deeper, but they look like a program on the rise. The addition of Coffeyville Community College center Maurice Kirby will give them help in the lane next season.
For now, the goal is to survive until guard Milton Doyle comes back from a sprained ankle in three weeks or so.
“Milton created so many shots for us,” Moser said. “For us, Milt is the guy where the ball just gets where it needs to go. It’s got to happen. We’ve got to find a way.”
▪ WSU’s defense has made life miserable for Loyola forward Christian Thomas, who averages 12.4 points and makes 53.3 percent of his shots. He scored two points on Wednesday, both from the line, and missed his only shot in 15 minutes. That brings his career marks against WSU to 5-of-26 shooting and 22 points in four games.
▪ WSU needs one more win for 20, which used to be a landmark around here. Old-timers who remember James Bunch, add that to your list of “Gee, things used to be a lot different” proclamations.
The Shockers will win 20 games (or more) for the sixth straight season. Before Marshall, WSU had 11 20-win seasons total with a three-season streak the best.
Marshall’s lowest 20-win total is 25.
Teams do play more games now than 40 or 50 years ago, so total wins can mislead.
Not in this case. WSU will win 70 percent (or more) of its games for the sixth straight time under Marshall this season. Before Marshall, the Shockers won 70 percent or more eight times as an MVC member (since 1945-46).