PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Wichita State is all alone in the record book.
Again using a balanced offense and tenacious defense, the second-ranked Shockers became the first Division I team to reach 30-0 in the regular season with a 69-49 victory over Bradley on Tuesday night.
“To be the first and only team in college basketball to win 30 without a loss in the regular season,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said when asked about his theme for the game. “I realize we’re playing more games … but it has never happened in the regular season.
“So it’s a first. And these guys like to be the first, and the best.”
Ron Baker had 15 points to lead four Wichita State players in double figures as the Shockers became the 11th team to reach 30-0, the previous 10 all hitting the 30-win mark during postseason play. The last team to reach 30-0 was UNLV in 1990-91. The Runnin’ Rebels went 34-0 that season before losing to Duke in the national semifinals.
The Shockers (30-0, 17-0 Missouri Valley Conference) have one more regular-season game, at home Saturday against Missouri State. The last team to finish a regular season unbeaten was Saint Joseph’s in 2003-04 at 27-0. The next season, Illinois got to 29-0 before losing its regular-season finale at Ohio State.
A barrage of 3-pointers early in the second half broke it open for Wichita State, which beat Bradley (12-18, 7-10) for the 10th straight time and second this season.
After Bradley trimmed a 10-point halftime deficit to eight, Shockers point guard Fred VanVleet made consecutive 3s for a 14-point lead, the visitors’ largest to that point. By the 12:50 mark, Cleanthony Early had added a 3-pointer and Baker made two 3s off screens for a 50-32 lead.
Wichita State finished the game 11 of 21 from beyond the arc, with four players making two or more. Bradley was 4 of 14.
“End-of-shot-clock 3s. That was it,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “I’m not saying we were going to win, but you hold them to seven offensive rebounds and have just six turnovers? I’ll take it.
“The difference was late-shot-clock 3s and their length at the basket.”
Ford went on to laud the Shockers’ defense.
“At the rim, they have unbelievable length,” Ford said. “It’s length and it comes from anywhere. Even (6-foot-3) Baker.
“They’re absolutely terrific at help and recover, and they deny (wing passes). You can’t find five teams in the country with that (combination).”
Tyshon Pickett finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds for Bradley after nearly reaching a double-double in the first half with 10 points and nine rebounds. Pickett was just 5-of-20 from the field and leading scorer Walt Lemon Jr. was 6 for 20 and had 18 points.
“I hate to get beat on the glass,” Marshall said of his team’s 37-36 rebound disadvantage. “But (Pickett) was a monster. He beasted us a little.”
Tekele Cotton scored 13 points, Early 12 and VanVleet had 11 for Wichita State, a Final Four participant a year ago. Reserve Darius Carter added nine points and seven rebounds and had one of the Shockers’ six blocked shots.
Miserable shooting prevented Bradley from mounting much of a threat. The Braves were at 25 percent (11 for 44) through 30 minutes and finished 16 for 59 (27.1 percent).
Bradley was playing host to its highest-ranked opponent since 1982, when then-No. 2 Wichita State lost 55-47 to the Braves who went on to win the NIT.
The Shockers led 35-25 at halftime after holding the Braves to 8-of-34 shooting (23.5 percent).
The game was a matchup of the top two defensive teams in the conference, though Wichita State (60.8 points per game) leads Bradley (65.5) comfortably. Offensively, Wichita State is also the MVC’s best (75.8) while Bradley (63.8) is last.
The No. 2 ranking equals the highest ranking in Wichita State history, matching the 1981-82 team.