National Basketball Association
Wichita St. 82, Bradley 56
When: 7:00 PM ET, Friday, March 3, 2017
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri
# Randy Heimerman, # John Higgins, # Don Daily
ST. LOUIS -- Most teams go to their bench and hope to survive.
Wichita State goes to its bench and often thrives.
Led by Darral Willis and Rashard Kelly, the 21st-ranked Shockers started their quest for a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title with 45 points from their reserves in an 82-56 blowout of Bradley Friday night at Scottrade Center.
Willis tallied 17 points on just eight shot attempts, going 9-of-10 at the foul line, and also grabbed seven rebounds in 14 minutes. Kelly added 14 and seven as second-seeded Wichita State improved to 28-4, advancing to Saturday's second semifinal against the winner of the Missouri State-Northern Iowa game.
"We have a very deep team," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. "I feel very confident that we can go 10 or 11 deep at any given time. I thought even our third group was effective. They didn't give up a lot of ground."
Despite coming up empty on its first eight possessions of the game and shooting only 37.1 percent from the field, Wichita State still hit its average of 82 points-per-game, dominating the Braves 51-37 on the boards and generating 23 points off 18 turnovers.
Kelly sparked the Shockers early with nine first half points off the pine, converting a tough 3-point play in traffic to settle them down after they had just two points in the first 4 1/2 minutes. As its defense began forcing tougher shots from the Braves (13-20), Wichita State swamped them just past the half's midpoint.
Markis McDuffie and Conner Frankamp drained back-to-back 3s for a 20-10 lead at the 7:54 mark, kicking off a game-changing 28-6 surge that gave the Shockers an insurmountable 42-16 halftime lead.
"Rashard came in and he just energized guys," Willis said. "He's the one that got us going."
Wichita State kept going until the lead climbed into the low 30s, reducing the second half into a long, foul-filled slog to the final horn.
One of the game's 48 fouls, a flagrant foul by Bradley guard Darrell Brown on the driving Willis with 9:49 remaining, sparked a brief flashfire between Marshall and Braves coach Brian Wardle.
At one point, Wardle yelled at Marshall to quit talking to his players. The finger-pointing coaches were finally shushed by referee John Higgins and the game concluded without further incident, although the postgame handshake could best be called a breezeby.
"I just said, 'Let's not talk to each other's players. Let's just coach our own players.' It was just more of competitors competing," Wardle said.
"I thought he could have displayed a little more restraint," Marshall said of Wardle.
The game's lopsided nature allowed Marshall to parcel out at least eight minutes for 14 players. No one played more than the 24 logged by McDuffie and Kelly, which could help the Shockers conserve energy in their attempt to win three games in less than 48 hours.
"They're so good offensive rebounding that they eventually got to us on the backboards," Wardle said. "We fouled too much today. We lose the free throw war and obviously the rebounding war. They're tough to beat if you do that."
Wichita State marched to the line 45 times, just two off its season high, and converted 31. It finished just two free throws shy of tying an all-time record in an MVC tourney game.
Brown, one of four freshman starters for Bradley, scored a game-high 18 points. Teammate Antoine Pittman added 13 off the bench.
But it wasn't close to being enough to cope with the Shockers. On Thursday, Marshall spoke of playing with a sense of desperation, noting that some believe his team needs to win the tournament in order to reach the NCAA field despite impressive stats and a talented roster.
With the cavalry riding in off the bench early, the message appeared to sink in.
"I think our mental preparation and our mental focus going into this tournament is kind of helping us move forward," Kelly said.
NOTES: Wichita State G Landry Shamet and F Markis McDuffie earned first team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors this week. Two teammates, F Shaquille Morris and G Conner Frankamp, were named to the third team. ... Bradley entered the game with a four-game winning streak, its longest against MVC opponents since the 2008-09 season. ... The Shockers rank second in Division I with their average scoring margin of 19.5 points per game.
Top Game Performances
Darrell Brown 18
Darral Willis Jr. 17
Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye 3
Conner Frankamp 3
Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye 5
Markis McDuffie 10
Darrell Brown 5
||Free Throws Made
Darral Willis Jr. 9
Antoine Pittman 2
Landry Shamet 3
Koch Bar 4
Zach Brown 1
Team Stats Summary