No. 2 Wichita State rolls into MVC final
St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Cleanthony Early scored 20 points and No. 2 Wichita State rolled to a 67-42 win over Missouri State on Saturday that moved the unbeaten Shockers into the final of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The Shockers (33-0) will face second-seeded Indiana State in Sunday's final. The Sycamores held on to beat Southern Illinois 62-59 on Saturday.
Wichita State is one win away from tying UNLV's 23-year-old record for best start to a season.
One of its toughest tests of the season came Jan. 11 against Missouri State, when the Bears took the Shockers to overtime at home before losing by three.
That win left Wichita State as one of four remaining unbeaten teams in the country. Now the Shockers are the only ones left.
"I thought we shared the ball very well. We were slow getting started but we loosened that up," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said Saturday. "We knew this team could give us fits if we didn't play well but we played well enough."
Tekele Cotton added 13 points for Wichita State, which held the fourth-seeded Bears (20-12) under 32 percent shooting. Gavin Thurman had nine points to lead Missouri State.
The Shockers haven't lost since falling to eventual champion Louisville in the Final Four last year. UNLV made it to the NCAA tournament perfect in 1990-91 and was 34-0 before losing to Duke in the Final Four.
The top-seeded Shockers beat Evansville by 22 on Friday in their tournament opener and led by as many as 38 on Saturday.
They had a 13-point lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half and were up 33-19 at the break.
"They handled us," said Bears coach Paul Lusk. "I thought we did some really good things in the first half defensively. I thought we played about as well as we could have defensively. ... When they're rolling like that, they're going to be tough to deal with."
The Bears never got closer than 12 in the second half. Their only two losses in their last five games of the season came to Wichita State. They topped Illinois State by five on Friday to open the tournament.
Wichita State shot 50 percent (25-of-50) overall and 9-of-20 (45 percent) from 3-point range ... Early made three of his six 3-point attempts ... It marked the seventh time in the last eight years the No. 1 seed in the tournament advanced to the final.