Fred VanVleet scores 27 points, lifts No. 12 Wichita State over Loyola
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall wasn’t going to say his players were looking past this game to a Top 25 showdown at Northern Iowa on Saturday.
But even Marshall wondered if that was the case after his 12th-ranked Shockers needed Fred VanVleet’s career-high 27 points to hold off short-handed Loyola 58-47 Wednesday night.
"I don’t know that the guys were looking ahead," Marshall said. "It’s just my guess. I don’t know how else to explain this. I’m grasping at straws."
Ron Baker added 16 points as the Shockers (19-2, 9-0 Missouri Valley) shot just 41 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the free throw line.
VanVleet and Baker were a combined 16 of 28 from the floor. The rest of the team was 6 of 26.
Devon Turk scored nine points for Loyola (13-8, 3-6), which was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.
"I don’t think we were looking ahead," senior guard Tekele Cotton said. "The ball just wasn’t falling through the net."
Wichita State’s shooting struggles started right away. The Shockers had 17 shots in the game’s first eight minutes but made just four of them, including a VanVleet 3-pointer for a 10-6 lead.
"We were even missing layups and dunks," Marshall said.
With Wichita State unable to convert shots, the Ramblers stayed close. Jeff White’s baseline drive and layup gave Loyola a 16-15 lead with 6:03 remaining in the half.
To make things more difficult for the Shockers, their two best interior scoring threats, Darius Carter and Shaquille Morris, each picked up two fouls in the first half.
VanVleet kept Wichita State going, hitting a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:40 to play in the half and swishing a 3 as the buzzer sounded for a 29-23 halftime lead.
"I thought that shot before halftime was huge," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "Timely shots by Baker and VanVleet. It’s always the same script with them."
Wichita State made its final three shots of the half to finish 12 of 32 from the floor. VanVleet had 16 points — no one else on either team more than six — on 6-of-9 shooting.
"Honestly, I feel like I can be that aggressive every night," said VanVleet, who entered the game averaging 10.6 points. "Whether it works out or not is up to the night. Tonight it worked out. We didn’t have flow to our offense, so I put the onus on me."
The second half started much the same way. The Shockers made only two shots in the first nine minutes, and Loyola was within 35-30 after Joe Crisman’s baseline 3-pointer with 12:30 remaining.
Loyola did not score again for more than six minutes.
"Their guards, they just clamp on you," Moser said. "Fred, Ron and Tekele’s defense is just phenomenal, and they defend harder as the game goes on. It wears you out."
Wichita State methodically took advantage. Baker had a dunk to wake up the crowd, VanVleet converted a layup and Baker sank a 3 with 6:50 remaining to make it 44-30 Wichita State. The Ramblers did not get closer than nine again.
"If Fred was on the other team, the home team loses tonight," Marshall said. "He looked like the only guy that was ready to play from the tip."
Loyola: The Ramblers were without Milton Doyle, last season’s MVC freshman of the year, because of an injured left ankle. Doyle, who averages 11.5 points, missed his third straight game. He is likely out another three weeks. … Moser is 1-11 against Wichita State as a head coach.
Wichita State: The Shockers have won 27 straight Missouri Valley games, the longest streak in the conference since 1924. … Junior guard Evan Wessel is 40-0 in home games in which he played. … VanVleet’s previous high was 22, which he reached four times last season.
Loyola entered the game leading the Missouri Valley Conference in 3-point shooting at 39.6 percent, and have had a lot of success against Wichita State. The Ramblers were 10 of 18 from the 3-point line in their earlier matchup this season, and hit 8 of 15 this time.