WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall had a schedule planned for this week.
In a subdued locker room following the fourth-ranked Shockers’ 57-45 victory over Loyola of Chicago on Tuesday night, Marshall did not need to inform his players that the schedule would be altered.
After scoring just 21 points in the second half and allowing a 22-point lead to dwindle to single digits, they knew.
“That was a painful second half,” Marshall said. “(Wednesday) was going to be a light day. It won’t be now. We’re going to get after it. That was an endless string of gaffes.”
Cleanthony Early scored 12 of his 23 points in the second half to lead Wichita State (22-0, 9-0 Missouri Valley Conference). No other Shocker scored more than seven points, and the rest of the team was a combined 3 of 19 (15.7 percent) from the field in the second half.
Freshman Milton Doyle scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for Loyola (8-13, 3-6).
The Ramblers trailed 22-16 with 5:35 to play in the first half before Wichita State went on a 14-0 run.
“We got it down to six, and they sped us up,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “We had six or seven bad possessions in a row, and they push the lead to 20. And that was it. I have seen them do it so many times this season.”
Wichita State’s lead grew to 42-20 with 17:05 remaining after consecutive 3-pointers from Ron Baker and Early.
“When you get up that big, in any sport, you tend to relax,” Baker admitted.
Loyola took advantage.
Doyle, who entered the game averaging 16 points, finally found scoring opportunities after a two-point first half.
His 3-pointer pulled Loyola within 43-29 with 13:31 left, but Early quickly countered with a 3-pointer to stem the tide.
Doyle scored four points in a six-point run that trimmed Wichita State’s lead to 48-35 with 6:03 remaining.
“I thought Milton settled down in the second half,” Moser said.
A 3 by Devon Turk off a Wichita State turnover and Doyle’s slashing layup 31 seconds later brought the Ramblers within 50-40.
At that point, Wichita State had made just two of its previous 18 shots, and point guard Fred VanVleet said the Shockers were “fighting ourselves, and it kept escalating.”
The crowd was nervous and then restless after Doyle’s three-point play with 2:27 left shaved the lead to single digits, 52-43.
But four free throws by Anthony and a dunk by Darius Carter sealed the victory for the Shockers, who outrebounded Loyola 44-28.
The Shockers tied the 1985-86 Bradley team for the third-longest winning streak by a Missouri Valley team.
The top two MVC winning streaks are Cincinnati, 37 from 1961 to 1963, and Indiana State, 33 in 1978-79.
VanVleet said going undefeated has entered the Shockers’ minds.
“Now it does, because you want to win the Valley,” he said. “So you want to win every Valley game.”