WICHITA, Kan. — Heading into its game against the Drake Bulldogs, the Wichita State Shockers were ranked 17th nationally in team defense.
After the Shockers’ defensive performance Saturday night, that ranking is bound to climb.
No. 3 Wichita State held Drake to 42 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers in their 83-54 victory at Charles Koch Arena.
The Shockers moved to 29-0 and remain the only undefeated team in the country.
“Tonight was called the B-29 Super Fortress, which were built right here in Wichita during World War II,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “The story I was told was that those B-29 missiles were made during the winter months outside and had to be finished in two months. Wichitans showed their toughness by getting those missiles built and I told the team we needed to be tough to get to win number 29 tonight.”
Before their game with Drake, Wichita State clinched the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title thanks to Missouri State’s win over Indiana State.
Still, after last season when the Shockers had two chances to win the league in the final week but failed to capitalize, being able to cut down nets on their home floor was important.
“To win the conference with a week left means a lot, honestly,” Wichita State guard Fred Van Vleet said. “But the truth of the matter is we have to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for next week.”
Defense and rebounding improvement were two fundamentals Marshall had been preaching over the past two days of practice, after Wichita State’s past four opponents averaged 71 points.
The Shockers responded by out-rebounding the Bulldogs 33-26, including 14 to seven on the offensive glass. Wichita State also stole the ball 10 times and deflected nearly 30 more passes.
The Bulldogs leading scorer, guard Richard Carter, was held to six points — 11 points below his season average.
“Tonight, we wanted to have a better defensive performance in front of our fans,” Van Vleet said.
Drake was held scoreless in the first half until almost the 15 minute mark. Still though the Bulldogs actually took a brief lead at the nine minute mark, 15-14. The Shockers answered in a big way, closing the half on a 17-3 run. During that span, they held the Bulldogs to one field goal.
“They have so many different weapons,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti said. “They are long, aggressive and run through the passing lanes. Most times when you get to the rack, you can’t score because they have great guys at the rim. They just put you in bad spots.”
The scoring barrage continued in the second half for Wichita State, which has now scored in the 80’s four of its last five games. The Shockers opened the second half on a 14-5 run.
“We’re averaging 83 in the last five games,” Marshall said. “But it was our defense that was our catalyst.”
Guard Tekele Cotton was extraordinary defensively, as he guarded Carter most of the night. Cotton finished with seven steals, which was a career-high.
He was also efficient on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
“I tried to read whoever had the ball and read their eyes and get into the passing lanes,” Cotton said. “I try to get to a spot where the offense can see and then I shoot for the ball.”
Van Vleet, who was the catalyst during the Shockers’ scoring run to close the first half, finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while recording six assists and no turnovers.
Forward Darius Carter, who had scored in double-figures in three of his past four games and had emerged as yet another weapon for Wichita State, also scored 15 points on just eight shots.
“I thought Fred Van Vleet and Tekele Cotton were outstanding tonight,” Marshall said. “Darius Carter gave us a huge lift with his scoring inside.”
Giacoletti, who was an assistant on the Gonzaga team that was upset by Wichita State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year, said that this year’s Shocker team is better in every facet.
“I think last year, even though they made it to the Final Four, they
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