CHICAGO — It wasn’t another 30-point pounding, but Wichita State still controlled the lead from wire to wire Wednesday in a 76-54 win at Loyola.
Loyola (14-15, 7-10 MVC) handled Wichita State’s early runs. The Shockers run opponents out of the building with early spurts that completely blow the game opened. Loyola was in danger of being the next victim, trailing 16-4 after seven minutes. The Ramblers scored seven unanswered, but the Shockers bumped their lead back up to 27-13 with 5:09 left in the half.
Loyola went down by 18 points with 2:30 left but finished the half on a 10-2 run to close the gap to 37-27.
Missed opportunities at the end of the first half. Loyola had a very strong finish to the first half, closing on a 10-2 run. However, the Ramblers had two chances to make that a 12-2 run but did not capitalize.
First junior guard Milton Doyle drove and was called for a questionable charge with 2.8 seconds left. Then, after a Wichita State turnover, sophomore wing Donte Ingram’s layup at the buzzer rattled out.
Seniors Montel James and Devon Turk carried Loyola’s effort. James, a 6-foot-7 forward, got into early foul but feasted on the glass. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
When Loyola’s offense struggled in the second half and Wichita State (22-7, 15-2) threatened to completely blow the game open, James kept drawing fouls and getting some easy points at the stripe. After not getting to the line in the first half, James shot 10-of-12 in the second.
Turk, a 6-foot-4 guard, drained three straight threes near the end of the first half as Loyola made its late push and then drained one more with 8:33 left in the second half that brought the Ramblers within 58-44. He finished with a team-high 18 points.
Loyola shot 35 percent from the field and scored 0.79 points per possession. These two Ramblers were the only ones to get anything going offensively.
Fred VanVleet finally missed at Gentile Arena. The Wichita State point guard came in averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in two career road games against Loyola. He had never missed a field goal here and had missed only one free throw.
Although VanVleet had a game-high seven assists and team-high six rebounds, he scored only seven points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field.
Ron Baker, on the other hand, was on fire. He scored 15 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting and finished with a game-high 19 points.
He and forward Anton Grady, who had arguably his best game of the season with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, paced the Shockers all night.
Arch Madness seeding. Loyola entered the day tied with Missouri State and Indiana State for the No. 6 seed in the MVC Tournament. Missouri State defeated Drake while Indiana State got blown out by Northern Iowa, putting Missouri State alone in sixth place at 8-9 in conference play.
Indiana State and Loyola enter the final game tied for the No. 7 seed, and the Sycamores hold the tiebreaker with their higher RPI.