ST. LOUIS — Tark’s Sharks have company in the NCAA record books.
Point guard Fred VanVleet scored a game-high 22 points as No. 2 Wichita State became only the second team in Division I history to start a season 34-0, defeating Indiana State 83-69 Sunday at Scottrade Center to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Guard Tekele Cotton added 20, while guard Ron Baker contributed 14 points. Forward Cleanthony Early and center Darius Carter each kicked in 10. It marked the first time the Shockers had won the MVC tourney since 1987, when they defeated Tulsa.
The only other squad to open a season at 34-0 was Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV in 1990-91. They were a heavy favorite to win a second straight NCAA title, but were upset by Duke in the national semifinals.
Like those Runnin’ Rebels, Wichita State will probably start the NCAA tourney as a No. 1 seed, likely in St. Louis on March 21. If it wins the national title, it would join the Baylor women of 2012-13 as the only Division I teams to ever go 40-0.
Guard Manny Arop and center Justin Gant each tallied 18 points for the Sycamores (23-10), whose resume probably isn’t strong enough to net an NCAA at-large bid. Gant drained 4 of 6 3-pointers.
Point guard Jake Odum made just 2-of-9 field goals and finished with eight points, playing the last 10 minutes with four fouls. Odum led the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game.
The Shockers took control midway through the first half with 11 straight points, netting a four-point possession after guard Devonte Brown was called for a flagrant-1 foul following a replay review. Baker made two free throws and center Darius Carter stuck back a missed shot.
Wichita State lugged a 39-29 lead to the locker room at halftime and quickly increased it to 15 inside the first minute of the second half. Indiana State gradually chipped away, drawing within 47-43 when guard Dawon Cummings canned a free throw at the 13:06 mark.
However, VanVleet and Cotton drilled 3-pointers in a 20-second span to start a spurt which ended when VanVleet’s 3 with 6:47 left upped the lead to 65-50.
NOTES: Wichita State’s average winning margin of 15.9 points per game is the best in school history. … Indiana State G Jake Odum extended his school records for most games played (132) and starts (129). … This was the Shockers’ 122nd win since the start of the 2010-11 season, allowing it to pass Kansas for second in Division I.
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