ST. LOUIS (AP) Wichita State used its depth to overpower Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Darral Willis Jr. scored 17 points and Rashard Kelly added 14 as the 21st-ranked Shockers rolled to an 82-56 victory Friday night. They will face sixth-seeded Missouri State in the semifinals on Saturday.
”I thought we played very well from about the first media timeout on,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. ”We had a little jitters at that point early, but after that we shared basketball, we really rebounded well, our defense was very good and we come away with a 26-point win. So we’ll take it.”
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Willis and Kelly were two of the key players off the bench for the second-seeded Shockers (28-4), who shook off a slow start to beat Bradley (13-20) for the 16th straight time. Wichita State got 45 points from its bench, compared to 28 for the seventh-seeded Braves.
”This team is very deep,” Marshall said. ”I thought even our third group was effective. They didn’t give up a lot of ground. … We have a very deep team and I feel very confident I can go 10 or 11 deep at any given time.”
Darrell Brown led Bradley with 18 points, and Antoine Pittman had 13.
Wichita State shot 37.1 percent from the field (23 for 62) but dominated the boards, outrebounding Bradley 51-37. The Braves shot 38.2 percent (21 of 55).
”I thought we were doing really good things, and we just kind of hit a lull offensively,” coach Brian Wardle said. ”When we did get a good look, we just didn’t knock them down. When you play a good defensive team and you’ve got those opportunities, you’ve got to seize the moment, and we weren’t able to do it.”
Wichita State turned the ball over five times before making its first basket with 16:12 remaining in the first half, but overwhelmed the Braves over the final 8:30 of the period.
The Shockers, who got nine points apiece from Kelly and Conner Frankamp in the half, outscored Bradley 28-6 to close it out and led 42-16 at the break.
”Rashard came in and he just energized guys,” Willis said. ”He’s the one that got us going.”
Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
WAR OF WORDS
The two coaches exchanged words following a flagrant foul by Brown with 9:49 left and Wichita State leading 67-36. Marshall said something to Brown, and Wardle replied back to Marshall.
”I just thought he could have displayed a little more restraint,” Marshall said. ”I basically said, `Hey, can you do that? And Brian didn’t like it.”
”I saw some talk going on with Darrell, and after that … I just said, `Don’t talk to – let’s not talk to each other’s players,”’ Wardle said. ”`Let’s just coach our own players.’ Like I said, competition, heat of battle. It can get emotional. That’s why sports is so great.”
The Shockers, attempting to secure their sixth straight NCAA Tournament bid, have been seeded first or second in eight straight MVC Tournaments and are 8-0 in those quarterfinal appearances. Wichita State won MVC Tournament championships in 1985, 1987 and 2014.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Bradley hasn’t beaten Wichita State since Feb. 24, 2010.
Wichita State advanced to the semifinals Saturday and will meet No. 6 seed Missouri State.