By Ryan Mayer
Beware the Shockers.
Wichita State, a senior laden team, led by guards Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker seem to be a team on a mission. The Shockers and their number one rated defense smothered the 6th seeded Arizona Wildcats 65 to 55 in Providence, RI. The Shockers, one of the last four teams into the tournament, placed in the First Four in Dayton, have now won two games to advance themselves to the Round of 32.
For coach Gregg Marshall’s crew, the story remained the same as always. Smothering defense, combined with savvy leaderships from the veterans to give them a 31-19 halftime lead after holding the Wildcats to just six made field goals in the first half. That 12 point lead would grow to as much as 24 in the second half as Arizona couldn’t seem to find their confidence on the offensive end. It wasn’t until after the midway point of the second half that Arizona started to make a run, cutting the lead down to 13 with 7:48 to play.
Yet, the Shockers would prove too much down the stretch as they kept the lead in double digits. Arizona turned the ball over 19 times including a couple of crucial turnovers down the stretch that kept them from closing the gap further.
Wichita State had four players score in double figures, led by Fred Van Vleet (16) and Ron Baker (13). Van Vleet added five steals while Baker chipped in five boards of his own to go along with six assists. Overall, the Shockers didn’t shoot especially well, at just 40.7% and an ugly 3-20 (15%) mark from behind the three point line. The difference in the game was Wichita State turning the ball over just five times, while forcing Arizona into 19.
For the Wildcats, Kadeem Allen (11) led all scorers, with Gabe York (10) and Allonzo Trier (10) joining him in double figures. The 55 points scored fell well below their season average of 81.2 points per game. For Sean Miller’s squad, it’s the first time they’ve lost in the first round since back in 2008.
With the win, the Shockers earn the right to face Miami in the Round of 32 on Saturday. The Hurricanes faced a tough test of their own against Buffalo, fending off a late run to win 79-72.