Preview: Wichita State, DePaul face off in CBE semifinals
Although Wichita State is off to another strong start, it would like to play better in the first half than it has of late.
The No. 14 Shockers seek a more complete performance while trying to remain undefeated and continue DePaul's futility against ranked opponents Monday night in the semifinals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
Wichita State (5-0) has beaten some favorable competition by an average of 22.8 points, but it trailed at the half in two contests and was tied in another. After shooting 58.3 percent in the first 20 minutes of a season-opening 93-50 win over Division II Emporia State, the Shockers have shot 38.9 percent in the first half since.
They made 35.7 from the field and went into the half tied at 31 at winless Tulsa on Wednesday, but made 53.6 percent of their shots in the final 20 minutes to win 77-54. The Shockers have shot 53.1 percent while outscoring their last four opponents by 71 in the second half.
"We want to change that and play the first half the way that we are playing the second half," said guard Fred VanVleet, averaging 14.6 points and 5.8 assists. "We know that our ranking can be a shot of energy for the other team at the start of the game. But we know that we can grind on the other team for a while and then we will bust it open."
VanVleet and Ron Baker each scored 21 on Wednesday for the 2013 national semifinalists, who are in position to start 6-0 for a second straight season.
"We're accepting the challenge and just trying to stay in hunting mode," said VanVleet, who added six assists and bounced back after scoring a season-low five points on 2-of-8 shooting in an 85-71 win over Tennessee State on Nov. 16.
"We're just trying to stay in hunting mode and not be the one getting hunted."
That's the approach Wichita State likely needs to have during its two-game slate in Kansas City. The Shockers will face Texas or BYU on Tuesday, and could take on one of them in the tournament championship.
First, Wichita State tries to beat DePaul (3-1) for the second straight year in a regular-season tournament setting. The Shockers held the Blue Demons to 30.6 percent shooting during a 75-62 win in the Cancun Challenge last Nov. 20.
Brandon Young had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists but DePaul dropped to 4-3 all-time against the Shockers.
Looking for a third consecutive victory overall, the Blue Demons will try to snap a 43-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents that dates to an 84-76 win over then-No. 17 Villanova on Jan. 3, 2008.
Averaging team highs of 19.0 points and 7.0 rebounds, Cleveland Melvin has totaled 43 and 22 in the Blue Demons' consecutive victories over Wright State and Milwaukee. He scored 20 and Young added 19 in an 80-71 road victory over the Panthers on Tuesday.