Thursday, February 25, 2016

Wichita State shows its consistency once more in a double-digit win at Loyola

                               Photo Credit: Geno Green

A dream plan for any school, big or small is to build a perennial winner year in and year out.

The Wichita State Shockers (22-7, 15-2 Missouri Valley Conference) are one of the models of the system coming to fruition with three straight conference titles and 15 league wins in four of its last five seasons.

The Shockers' 15th MVC win on the season came in a 76-54 win over the Loyola Ramblers (14-15, 7-10 MVC) in their last true road game of the season at the Gentile Center in Chicago, Wednesday night.

Entering the game, Wichita State led the country in road scoring margin (+14.1) and added to its total in a 22-point route of Loyola.

"Loyola played well coming into the game and we did not have our best game," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. "We managed to play well enough to win by 22 and our defense was key by holding Loyola to 35.3 percent from the field and 29.4 from three-point range."

Wichita State senior guard Fred VanVleet attributes the statistics to the leadership with fellow classmate Ron Baker have formed in the last four seasons and how the influence has rubbed off on the younger talent.

"I think we have guys that have been here long enough that have done this and know what it takes to close out possessions with our length," VanVleet said.

Loyola coach Porter Moser complemented Baker and VanVleet's influence on Wichita State's defensive stranglehold over the years.

"You can see with [Fred and Ron], how much defense means and they really get after it and that is contagious. They have some side and length that effects you defensively," Moser said.

Baker set the tone early with seven of the first 10 points for Wichita State in the first 3:04 of the game and finished with a game-high 19 points, on 6-of-10 from the field.

Moser took a different take from Baker's performance. 

"Ron didn't make his first few shots, but got it going," Moser said. "Baker was terrific with his defense on Milton [Doyle]. [Ron] is an elite defender and you can talk about his shots, but I thought he impacted the game defensively."

VanVleet made his presence known as the quarterback of the offense with a game-high and team-high of seven assists and  rebounds, respectively.

The Shockers made their living from the free throw line going 23-of-27 (85.2 percent) compared to the Ramblers going 13-for-21 (61.9 percent).

The MVC Tournament looms on the horizon for Wichita State and Marshall knows after being eliminated in the semifinals to Illinois State last season and losing once this season on the road, Saturday's meeting takes on extra meaning.

"We will deal with [Illinois State] when we get back home and have two days of preparation," Marshall said. "The first day will focus on video and scouting reports and the second day will deal with practice time."

Wichita State has its eyes set on the month of March, but knows beating Illinois State on Saturday and possibly in the MVC Tournament could be the momentum and swagger it needs to be a legit contender in the NCAA Tournament.

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