WICHITA, Kan. — Wichita State won again, relatively easily, but the atmosphere afterward almost resembled a defeat.
The Shockers defeated Loyola-Chicago 57-45 on Tuesday at Koch Arena to remain one of the nation’s three unbeaten teams. But the No. 4 team in the nation expects better. The Shockers didn’t deliver, and they knew it.
“The second half definitely was not pretty,” Wichita State guard Ron Baker said. “We’re definitely going to have to learn from it.”
While the Ramblers never threatened to take the lead, they did cut the margin to nine points in the final three minutes. The Shockers (22-0, 9-0 Missouri Valley Conference) missed 16 of 18 shots during one second-half stretch and committed eight second-half turnovers.
“Painful second half,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Ramblers, who joined the MVC in April, made their first visit to Koch Arena as a conference opponent and escaped with their dignity. Down 22, that looked iffy. Then they regrouped and gave the Shockers problems. For a team that plays mostly freshmen and sophomores, that was important.
“I felt our guys were ready to play,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “We’ve got a learning curve. Best atmosphere we’ve played in.”
The Shockers extended their school-record winning streak to 22 games and improved to 9-0 in the MVC, the best start in program history.
Forward Cleanthony Early, a Wooden Award candidate, scored 23 points to continue his hot streak. He averaged 21 in two road games last week. Forward Milton Doyle led Loyola with 16 points.
The Shockers led by 22 early in the second half before their offense shut down. They went almost seven minutes without a field goal, helping the Ramblers (8-13, 3-6 MVC) cut the lead to 15 points.
“We missed some easy bunnies and turned the ball over quite a bit,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “We’ve got to play better, got to have more focus, more energy.”
Loyola cut the lead to 52-43 in the final minutes. Three free throws and a dunk by forward Darius Carter put the Shockers up 57-43.
The Shockers closed the half with a 14-3 run to lead 36-18 at the break. Early scored 11 first-half points, and forwards Nick Wiggins and Tekele Cotton added five each.
“We got pummeled in a 10-minute stretch in the first half,” Moser said. “That stretch beat us.”
Wiggins got the burst going with two free throws for a 24-16 lead and followed with a long 3-pointer to make it 27-16. Early made a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer to give Wichita State a 34-16 lead.
The Ramblers fueled the Shockers’ run with two turnovers and four missed shots.
Wichita State overwhelmed the smaller Ramblers with its size and experience. The Shockers outrebounded Loyola 21-12 in the first half and outscored the Ramblers 16-6 in the lane.
Loyola missed eight of its nine 3-point attempts and shot 7 of 25 from the field. Guard Devon Turk scored five points and finished the half with three fouls.
NOTES: Loyola made its first trip to Wichita as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Ramblers last played in Wichita in 1974 during a time when the teams often met twice a year as nonconference foes. … Wichita State’s 9-0 MVC start matches the 1965 team as the program’s best. … Wichita State is 13-0 at home, with four home games remaining. It last went unbeaten at home in 1982-83, when it went 15-0.
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