When Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet played their final games with the Wichita State Shockers last season, many wondered how the team would fare without their leaders.
Through four games in 2016-17, the answer is quite simple.
Entering Sunday’s tilt with the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, the Shockers were a perfect 3-0, and had won their three games by an average of 36.6 points. In their second game of the year, the Shockers routed the Long Beach State 49ers, the preseason favourite in the Big West Conference, 92-55.
On the flip side, the Hawks started the season 0-3, but have shown some fight each time out. Their first two losses of the season were each decided by 4 points, and the Hawks made both the George Washington Colonials and the UMBC Retrievers fight down to the wire.
On Sunday, the trend continued for the Shockers. They never trailed in the game, and despite an early 4-4 tie, the Hawks weren’t able to stay close to Wichita State.
As a team, the Shockers shot a combined 00.0% (00-of-00) from the floor in their 116-79 rout of the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks.
Dontae Caldwell got a layup to fall for the Hawks early in the first half that tied the score at 4-all. That was the last time that Eastern Shore would be tied with Wichita State on the afternoon.
The Shockers seized control of the game from then on out, methodically building their lead as the first half ticked away.
Deven Dorsett connected on a jumper to bring the Hawks back to within 5 points, at 17-12, with 13:03 left in the opening half. Five quick points from Austin Reaves put the Shockers back up by 10, and they would lead by double-figures the rest of the way.
In the opening half, the lead would reach as many as 27 points for the Shockers, and they took a 62-37 lead into the locker room at half time.
The second half was more of the same. Wichita State continued to build on their lead, with reserves getting significant playing time with a comeback out of reach for the Hawks.
Six players scored in double-figures, and 14 of the 15 Wichita State players who checked into the game scored at least 2 points, as the Shockers rout the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks on Sunday afternoon, 116-79.
Guard Daishon Smith scored a team-high 16 points for the Shockers, finishing the game a perfect 4-of-4 from three point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Landry Shamet tied Smith for the team-high, adding 16 points of his own on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor.
As a team, the Shockers shot a combined 35-of-53 (66.0%) from the floor, and 15-of-24 (62.5%) from three point range in the win.
One bright spot for the Hawks was the play of junior guard Ryan Andino. He scored a game-high 27 points on the day, setting a new career-high in the process. Andino finished the game shooting 8-of-10 from three point range.
His previous career-high was 18 points, which he scored as a freshman against the Delaware State Hornets.
Junior guard Logan McIntosh continued his strong play to open the season, adding 15 points of his own in the loss.
The loss was the fourth-straight to open the season for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (0-4, 0-0). They started the 2015-16 season the same way, before winning their fifth game of the year. They will hope to do the same again in 2016-17 when they take on the Colorado State Rams on Wednesday night as they continue their four-game, cross-country road trip.
Through four games, the Wichita State Shockers (4-0, 0-0) have been dominant despite losing both Baker and VanVleet from last year’s team. They will look to continue their hot start to the year on Wednesday afternoon when they take on the LSU Tigers to open up the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas.
– T. Bennett