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No. 14 Wichita State blows past Missouri State

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — There’s nothing like hitting 11 3-point shots to help a team’s offensive efficiency.

The No. 14 Wichita State Shockers came within a 3 of tying its season high from deep, enabling it to blow open a good Missouri Valley Conference game Wednesday night and dump the Missouri State Bears 76-53 at JQH Arena.

After converting only 31 of 86 3-pointers in their first six conference games, the Shockers (17-2, 7-0) sank 11 of 21, getting them from six different players. Guard Ron Baker was 5 of 7 from long range, accounting for all his 15 points.

Baker sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a trey from freshman forward Rashard Kelly in a 95-second span of the second half, pushing Wichita State’s lead to 56-41 with 11:26 remaining.

“I told my post players that we kind of got beasted a few times inside,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “But you have to pick your poison a little bit when we’re running that ball-screen offense.

“When a guy rolls right down the middle and sucks the defense in, we’ve got smart enough players see that. Then they can pass-fake and get a wide-open 3 on the closeout.”

Guard Tekele Cotton and point guard Fred VanVleet each added 15 points, with VanVleet dishing out a game-high seven assists. Cotton tacked on six rebounds and four assists in a solid all-around effort.

Forward Darius Carter contributed 14 points in just 18 minutes as Wichita State won its 25th consecutive conference game, extending its modern-era MVC mark. It was just the second time in seven MVC games that the Shockers scored 70 or more points.

“We just grind and grind and grind, and hopefully at some point in the game, we’ll be able to break it open,” VanVleet said. “We’ve been able to do that in these past few games.”

Guard Dorrian Williams and freshman forward Chris Kendrix each tallied 10 points for the Bears (8-11, 2-5), who lost their fifth straight game. The last three have occurred without leading scorer Marcus Marshall (19.5 ppg), who announced on Friday that he would transfer.

Missouri State entered the game in a major offensive funk, shooting under 40 percent in four consecutive games while not boasting a player averaging double figures. But it matched Wichita State almost bucket-for-bucket in a well-played first half.

There were 11 lead changes in the first 10 1/2 minutes, and even after Cotton’s 3-pointer gave the Shockers a 34-24 lead with 3:01 on the clock, the Bears responded. Guard Austin Ruder’s pull-up jumper sliced the deficit to 37-33 before VanVleet ended the half with a twisting layup in heavy traffic.

However, Missouri State couldn’t keep it going for 40 minutes. It made just 7 of 25 shots after halftime, finishing the night at 40 percent from the field.

“That’s a good team right there,” Williams said. “They contest every shot and make it hard to get catches. We just have to continue to work at playing 40 minutes of basketball, and hopefully, we can get it done.”

The Bears also failed to keep Wichita State off the glass, allowing 17 offensive rebounds and getting out-rebounded 40-24.

Standing outside the Shockers’ locker room after the game, VanVleet said his team is starting to find their way after a couple of non-conference losses and some less-than-impressive outings early in conference play.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve made it, but I think we’re coming along,” VanVleet said. “We’ve not reached our peak or anything. We have so much room for improvement. That’s the most exciting part — knowing we can be a lot better.”

NOTES: Wichita State committed fewer turnovers than its opponents in each of the first 18 games before Wednesday. It entered Wednesday night’s game ranked eighth in Division I at just 9.9 turnovers per game and had just eight against Missouri State. … The Bears’ Paul Lusk coached his 14th game against a top 25 team Wednesday night, matching the program’s last three coaches combined (Steve Alford, six; Barry Hinson, six; Cuonzo Martin, two). … Shockers F Evan Wessel played a season-high 32 minutes in Saturday’s 61-41 win at Evansville, marking just the third time in his career he’s topped 30 minutes.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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