No. 8 Wichita State beats Northern Iowa to stay unbeaten
WICHITA, Kan. (AP)
Wichita State forward Chadrack Lufile has almost grown bored with the Shockers' winning streak. Honest.
''I mean, at 5-0, we were talking about it,'' he said of the school-record start to the season, ''but at this point of the season, we are just worried about these games. We're not comfortable at all. We know we can get better, and we know there's doubters.''
Fred VanVleet scored a season-high 22 points and No. 8 Wichita State beat Northern Iowa 67-53 on Sunday as the unbeaten Shockers extended their winning streak to 15 games.
Cleanthony Early had 18 points for the Shockers (15-0, 2-0 Missouri Valley), who established a school record for consecutive wins and extended the best start in school history. The previous record winning streak of 14 games came in 1953-54.
Deon Mitchell had 16 points for Northern Iowa (7-7, 1-1).
Wichita State shot 38.1 percent from the field, but VanVleet continued his hot streak. In the last four games, he averaged 18.3 points while compiling 21 assists and just one turnover.
''That's as good of point guard play as I've seen in a long time, at any level,'' Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said.
Northern Iowa bolted to a 12-2 lead in the first 4 minutes, making three of four 3-point attempts. But the Panthers were 2 of 20 from beyond the arc after that.
''We found guys open, and those are shots we're going to shoot,'' Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. ''We will keep shooting them.''
Early scored 11 of Wichita State's first 13 points in the second half. His third 3-pointer in a 5-minute span gave the Shockers a 43-33 lead with 14:05 remaining.
''We gave him too much space over 40 minutes,'' Jacobson said.
Northern Iowa rallied by taking the ball to the basket. Drives by Marvin Singleton and Mitchell were followed by Wes Washpun's two free throws that cut Wichita State's lead to 43-39 with 12:17 to play.
VanVleet sparked the next significant spurt for Wichita State. He made a jumper with 8:11 remaining and then dribbled past two Panthers and slithered between two more for a winding layup to go up 57-44 with 6:28 remaining, the biggest lead of the game to that point.
Fittingly, it was VanVleet who sealed the victory.
With the shot clock winding down, he bulled through the Northern Iowa defense and hit a 12-footer while being fouled with 2:28 remaining. The three-point play made it 64-47.
Just 33 seconds later, VanVleet was in transition when he lofted a left-handed layup over two Panthers while being fouled. That three-point play pushed the Shockers' lead to 67-47 as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
''I just have to pick my spots,'' VanVleet said. ''I think teams respect that I like to find guys and will find guys. So that can open up lanes to drive.''
Jacobson was irked at not giving the Shockers a better run despite holding them to poor shooting and staying nearly even on rebounds. Wichita State finished with a 43-40 rebound advantage.
''For anyone to beat them, they are going to have to have that kind of day,'' Jacobson said. ''But you have to have better offense than we had.''
The Panthers shot 33.9 percent (19 of 56) for the game.
''I felt like we got back to our defensive identity,'' VanVleet said. ''To go deep and win championships, you have to rely on defense.''