ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker scored 17 points apiece and No. 2 Wichita State set a Missouri Valley tournament record with 11 blocked shots, staying perfect for the season with an 80-58 romp over Evansville in the quarterfinals Friday.
D.J. Balentine had 31 points with seven 3-pointers for ninth-seeded Evansville (14-19), which lost twice by an average of 15 points to Wichita State (32-0) in the regular season.
Kadeem Coleby had six of the blocks for the Shockers, who are two victories shy of matching the NCAA record of 34 wins to start a season by UNLV in 1990-91. UNLV was perfect before losing in the NCAA semifinals to Duke that season.
Wichita State beat every Valley school twice in the regular season and takes on the Missouri State-Illinois State winner in the semifinals on Saturday. Missouri State has come the closest to beating the Shockers, losing by three in overtime at home in January.
This is rarified air for the Shockers, who haven’t been ranked this high since 1981 when they were also No. 2. They went to the Final Four last year as a No. 9 seed and are two wins away from a first Valley title since 1987 and a No. 1 seed.
Balentine was 7 for 14 from 3-point range, falling one short of the school record. He led the Valley with a 22.5-point average and scored 30 points in the play-in game victory over eighth-seeded Drake on Thursday.
Early had a four-point play, a three-point play and ran down Blake Simmons to swat away a layup late in the first half, helping Wichita State build a 41-31 cushion. Baker had five points in a 17-5 run that made it 40-27 with 1:34 left.
The Shockers were just as relentless in the second half. A 15-5 run put them up 20 points with just under 12 minutes to go.
Valley player of the year Fred VanVleet had nine points, five assists and four steals for Wichita State. Tekele Cotton and Chadrack Lufile had 11 points apiece.