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Perfect VanVleet Leads No. 3 Wichita St. to 28-0 | The Catch and Shoot

Perfect VanVleet Leads No. 3 Wichita St. to 28-0

Photo: AP | Jeff Roberson
Photo: AP | Jeff Roberson

Wichita State (28-0, 15-0 MVC) remained perfect Wednesday thanks to a perfect performance by sophomore guard Fred VanVleet.

VanVleet scored 22 points while shooting 6-of-6 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line in the Shockers’ 88-74 win at Loyola Chicago (9-18, 4-11 MVC). The sophomore also dished six assists with only one turnover and grabbed eight rebounds.

“You can’t feel more confident than I do when he has the basketball in his hands,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said. “He’s so tough, he’s so smart, he’s so heady.”

Loyola head coach Porter Moser called VanVleet once of the top-three point guards in all of college basketball.

Wichita State led the whole way, but Loyola was within striking distance all night in front of a nearly sold out Gentile Arena.

The Ramblers cut an 11-point deficit to five points late in the first half and went into halftime down 39-32.

The Shockers served the first blow in the second half, building a 52-36 lead, but the Ramblers again kept things interesting with a 6-2 spurt cutting the lead to 12 points.

A three-pointer by Loyola sophomore Jeff White followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by freshman Milton Doyle brought Loyola within 63-53. Doyle and White finished as the Ramblers’ leading scorers, notching 18 and 14 points, respectively.

Loyola remained down 10 points with 6:33 remaining but never got closer. The Ramblers were hurt tremendously by a -17 disadvantage on the boards. The Shockers are not only the best rebounding team in the MVC, but one of the best in the nation.

Wichita State did what winning teams do to put away opponents by shooting 31-of-34 at the foul line. The Shockers converted 14-of-15 in the final seven minutes and 21-of-22 overall in the second period.

VanVleet’s alley-oop feed to junior forward Darius Carter with 53 seconds left served as the exclamation point.

Carter gave the Shockers his usual lift off the bench with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting along with five boards.

Leading scorer Cleanthony Early was limited because of foul trouble and played only 21 minutes. Still, the senior forward recorded 18 points. His final shot of the night, a left-wing three-pointer, marked the 1,000th point of his career.

Sophomore Ron Baker was the fourth Shocker to score in double figures with 10 points in addition to five assists.

Wichita State remained perfect on a night when No. 1 Syracuse, the nation’s only other unbeaten team entering Wednesday, lost at home to a Boston College team that came in with only six wins all season.

“It just goes to show you that you can lose to anybody any night in college basketball,” Marshall said. “Home or away, the other team has a coach and 13 scholarship players. When that ball is tossed up, they want to win too.”

The Shockers’ undefeated record has led to a classic debate in college basketball: is it better to lose a game before the NCAA Tournament to relieve some pressure, or is it best to just run the table?

Marshall snubbed the idea of losing as a way to relieve pressure.

“Whether in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, second round, or third round, having a loss has no bearing on how we play in those games,” Marshall said. “I never coach to lose. It’s not in my DNA, it’s not in [the players’] DNA.”

Early downplayed the significance of a perfect record, saying it does more for the media than it does for the team.

Marshall said he thinks Wichita State could win the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and Moser agreed the Shockers are among an elite group of teams this season.

Moser said, “They’re are talented, but there’s a lot of talented teams in the country. They’re talented, and they are special with their intangibles.”

Loyola is back on the road this weekend, facing Bradley on Saturday.

Wichita State returns home Saturday to face Drake, which sits 8th in the MVC. With a win, the Shockers will clinch the MVC regular season title outright.

“Our next goal is to go home and cut down the nets,” Marshall said.

The Shockers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the MVC Tournament and a share of the regular season title.


Other notes from Wednesday night:

—Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall on coaching this year’s group of players: “These guys are a dream for any coach. First of all, they’re self-motivated. I’m the secondary motivation for these young men. They’re born to win. They do everything that we ask them to do on a daily basis. They grind, just like the coaching staff, because they want to be special.”

—Marshall on Loyola and Porter Moser: “I think Porter has got a chance. People need to come support him. The crowd tonight was very good, students showed up. It’s a tough little place to play. It’s kind of a cross between an arena and a gym, and it can get loud. They’ve got some dynamic young players. So I’m excited for what he can do.”

—Marshall further on the difficulty of winning every game no matter who the opponent is: “Every single night in college basketball when you’re playing another Division I program is a potential loss. Especially on the road. These guys find a way. We weren’t perfect tonight, but we played well enough to come out with a 14-point win. … When you see Syracuse lose to Boston College, and Arizona loses to Arizona State, and Florida has lost a couple of games. We could easily lose Saturday [against Drake].”

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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