ST. LOUIS — Missouri State tried to slow second-ranked Wichita State down Saturday, milking the shot clock on almost every first half possession.
However, when the Shockers started making 3-pointers from all over the floor, the Bears had to speed up. Then things really got out of hand.
Using mammoth runs to take charge of a tight game, Wichita State eased into the final of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 67-42 rout of the Bears at Scottrade Center.
Forward Cleanthony Early scored a game-high 20 points, including two 3-pointers during a 17-0 first half spurt which turned a one-point game into a 30-12 rout at the 3:03 mark.
It was never in doubt after that, as the Shockers became only the third team in NCAA history to start a season 33-0. The others were Larry Bird’s Indiana State in 1978-79 and UNLV in 1990-91.
“They do a good job, as many teams do, of making you beat them from the outside,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said of Missouri State. “They were packing it in, so we had to hit some 3-pointers to loosen them up.”
Guard Tekele Cotton added two 3-pointers to the big first half run. Early tacked on another 3-pointer with less than a minute left in the half, as Wichita State finished the half 8-for-10 from long range.
The Shockers turned a 33-19 halftime lead into a total blowout by holding the Bears (20-12) without a field goal for 9:09 of the second half, ripping off 22 unanswered points.
Wichita State expanded the margin to 63-25 with 8:58 left before pulling most of its starters.
“I know play angry is our motto, but we also like to have fun out there,” guard Fred VanVleet said. “I think that’s what we were doing today.”
Missouri State had to endure its second lopsided loss to the Shockers in a week, having fallen, 68-45, on March 1 in Wichita.
The Bears played without guard Jarmar Gulley for 10 minutes after he appeared to hit his head on the floor, and reserve forward Keith Pickens limped off the floor after only three minutes.
Missouri State made only 15-of-47 shots from the field, including 5-of-21 on 3-pointers, and placed no one in double figures.
Reserve forward Gavin Thurman led the Bears with nine points. Gulley, who led the team in scoring this season at 14.7 points per game, managed only five in 14 minutes.
“They play really physical on defense and that made it hard for us to score,” guard Austin Ruder said of Wichita State.
Added Missouri State coach Paul Lusk: “They wore us down. We just couldn’t score and that made it tough on us.”
After coughing up five turnovers in their first 11 possessions, the Shockers made only four more for the rest of the game. Wichita State made 25-of-50 shots from the field and had assists on 14 buckets.
Marshall said this team has been fun to coach because of their unselfishness and willingness to play without agendas.
“It’s just amazing that we’re one game away from being done with the conference tournament,” Marshall said. “It seems like this season has just flashed by in an instant, maybe four weeks instead of 3 1/2 months.”
NOTES: Wichita State G Fred VanVleet’s first assist Saturday gave him 170 for the season, moving him into third place for a single season in school history. … Missouri State’s 19 offensive rebounds in Friday’s MVC quarterfinal win over Illinois State were its most in coach Paul Lusk’s three seasons and its second most in its MVC tournament history. … Eighty points has been a magic number for coach Gregg Marshall. His teams are 97-4 when they get to 80, as was the case in Friday’s MVC quarterfinal blowout of Evansville.
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