Only one of Marshall’s Shockers played more than 24 minutes as No. 5 Wichita State smacked Bradley 72-50 to remain unbeaten.
“It’s not just that we were able to rest our starters,” Marshall said, “we’re still trying to lengthen our bench, too, find more guys that can pull the wagon.”
Fred VanVleet had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Darius Carter added 11 points for the Shockers (18-0, 5-0 Missouri Valley Conference), who extended school records for winning streak and best start to a season in their first game as a top 5 team since 1981.
Walt Lemon scored 12 points, Tyshon Pickett added 11 and Omari Grier had 10 for Bradley (6-12, 1-4). Those three were a combined 12 of 37 from the field.
“We’ve actually played pretty well the last three games, but they just had their way,” Braves coach Geno Ford said. “We really don’t think we played that differently than we have. They’re just that good.”
Wichita State might be a little better after getting the bench so many minutes. The Shockers’ two leading scorers, Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker, combined for just 13 points in 40 minutes, and it didn’t really matter.
Bradley pulled within 15-14 on 3-pointer with 8:27 remaining in the first half. But the Braves made just one field goal over the next 5 minutes, allowing Wichita State to pull away. A 3-pointer by Baker keyed a 10-0 run. Minutes later, VanVleet scored five straight points to give the Shockers a 32-18 lead.
“I thought we were active in our pressure,” Marshall said. “The deflections and steals got them to play faster than they wanted to.”
After Bradley’s Mason Alwan made a layup, the Shockers’ Derail Green took over.
That was quite unexpected as Green had played in just 12 games this season, logging more than 5 minutes only twice. He entered Tuesday’s game averaging less than a point.
But given early playing time due to Evan Wessel’s ankle injury, Green shined. He hit a 3-pointer, two free throws and another 3-pointer in a span of 62 seconds, pushing Wichita State’s lead to 40-20 with 1:35 left in the half.
“Give Green credit,” Ford said. “Those 3s were backbreakers for us.”
The Shockers did not take long to improve on a 40-23 halftime lead. Four free throws by Chadrack Lufile and a three-point play from VanVleet made it 47-23 with 17:47 remaining.
“The reason they’re so good, in my opinion, is they have four guys that lead a fast break,” Ford said, “so they play really fast and yet they average less than 10 turnovers a game. It’s unbelievable.”
Wichita State’s lead was so comfortable, walk-on J.R. Simon, who had played a total of 23 minutes this season, entered the game with more than 13 minutes remaining.
The Shockers’ lead continued to grow. A 3 by VanVleet with 5:59 remaining gave Wichita State a 70-38 lead, and the Shockers cruised to their eighth straight win over the Braves.
Wichita State outrebounded Bradley 41-31.
“I could feel their guys wearing down,” Carter said. “They were definitely getting a little tired of blocking out.”
VanVleet was 7 of 10 from the field and has scored at least 16 points in four of Wichita State’s last five games.
“He’s the best point guard in the league,” Ford said, “and I’m not sure there’s three better in the country.”
Bradley had not played a conference game against a top 5 opponent since an 82-80 overtime loss at No. 4 Louisville on Jan. 4, 1975.