Wichita State has never been better.
With former Shockers and current NBA players Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet in attendance, Wichita State dominated rival Northern Iowa, 73-44, and frankly It wasn’t that close.
The Shockers (25-4, 15-1) won the opening tip, and pummeled the Panthers early en route to a 14-4 start 3:23 in.
Standing Eight Count administered.
Northern Iowa (14-13, 9-7) is the only MVC team to win in Wichita since the 2013-14 season and the Shockers are 54-6 (.900) in home league games since 2010.
The deep Shockers led by as many as 16 points in the first half, and their relentless defense and interchangeable parts were too much for UNI. Wichita State dogged the Panthers into a .275 shooting percentage and crushed them on the boards, 48-23.
With the win, Wichita became the first MVC team to win 25 games in eight straight seasons. The Shockers are the gold standard of the Valley and are building an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume. They’ve won ten straight games and 16 of their last 17.
Freshman Landry Shamet (four assists and one turnover) and junior Darral Willis Jr. led the offense with 14 points each. Willis also grabbed 11 rebounds.
A cold shooting beginning to the second half opened the door for a Panther comeback, but then Bennett Koch picked up his fourth foul with 13:50 to play. Koch had been as instrumental as anyone in the Panthers’ return to relevancy after an 0-5 start in the MVC. They would have to play without him down the stretch.
WSU led 44-32 at that point, and then went on a 13-4 run before UNI head coach Ben Jacobson could get Koch back on the floor.
As usual, the Shockers also succeeded in taking the opposing team’s best player out of the game. Preseason Valley Player of the Year Jeremy Morgan scored eight points on 2-11 shooting. A lot of that defense was provided by sophomore Markis McDuffie, who also scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. UNI’s third leading scorer, Klint Carlson, made just one of 15 shot attempts.
Seven Shockers scored at least five points and hauled in at least three rebounds.
As good as the Shockers have been through Gregg Marshall’s tenure, this may be his best team. The offense is averaging over 80 points per game, and they are a top-five team nationally in defensive shooting percentage (.378 prior to the game).
Not to mention their depth.
10 players score five or more points per game. The Shockers are third nationally in margin of victory. Both Ken Pomeroy (13th) and ESPN’s BPI (19th) have the Shockers in the top 20 and Shockers are in the top 50 in the latest RPI (42nd).
By the way: all of the Shockers’ best players will be back next season.