The Wichita State Shockers are marching on! Led by seniors Fred VanVleet (14 points, 7 assists) and Ron Baker (14 points, 9 rebounds), Wichita State reeled off two huge, second-half runs to down the Commodores, advancing to face Arizona on Thursday.
Tied at 30 heading into the final 20 minutes, coach Gregg Marshall, VanVleet and Baker drew upon experience earned from 5 consecutive NCAA appearances. Instead of continuing a more iso-heavy brand of ball that plagued them in the first half, VanVleet made sure to place pinpoint passes for shooters after penetrating, while Baker set the tone with patient shot selection.
The result: a 16-3 run to begin the second, followed by a 20-2 run to close out the game. Back breaking triples by Connor Frankamp & freshman Markis McDuffie put the game out of reach, which is an encouraging sign for Coach Marshall’s role players going into a showdown with ‘Zona.
Vandy, on the other hand, played uninspired ball for the majority of the night – they just couldn’t crack the code and find easy looks against such a disciplined defense.
Stars Wade Baldwin IV and Damion Jones (two first-round prospects), in particular, had plenty of chances to make a “game-changing” play or impose their will but stayed passive…the formula for an early exit.
Wichita State, again, finds itself in an UnderDOG role on Thursday v. Sean Miller’s Wildcats. It should be a really fun matchup, as ‘Zona will try to wreak havoc in transition while limiting the impact of VanVleet and Baker.
But like previous years, the Shockers are poised with enough leadership and toughness to make noise and prove naysayers wrong.