Wichita State only unbeaten team left
By JAY COHEN
CHICAGO -- Fred VanVleet attempted six shots from the field and made them all. He took 10 foul shots and every one of those went in, too.
Just another perfect line for Wichita State on Wednesday night.
VanVleet scored 22 points and the third-ranked Shockers beat Loyola of Chicago 88-74 to remain the only unbeaten team in major college basketball.
"We want to be undefeated," VanVleet said. "We don't play the game to lose."
Wichita State and top-ranked Syracuse began the day as the last Division I schools with perfect records. But the Orange lost 62-59 to Boston College in overtime, and the Shockers used an 11-2 run early in the second half to help close out the Ramblers.
"Every single night in college basketball when you're playing another Division I program is a potential loss," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said, "especially on the road. These guys find a way."
Cleanthony Early scored 18 points as Wichita State became the 19th school to begin a season with 28 straight victories. VanVleet, who grew up in Rockford, Ill., also had eight rebounds and six assists with only one turnover.
"We're going to have to talk about that one turnover," Marshall cracked.
The Shockers (28-0, 15-0) can clinch the Missouri Valley Conference title with a victory at home against Drake on Saturday night.
Milton Doyle scored 18 points and Jeff White had 14 for Loyola (9-18, 4-11), which has lost three straight and six of seven. Devon Turk finished with 13 points.
"They're phenomenal at capitalizing on your mistakes," Ramblers coach Porter Moser said. "They just don't leave you much room for error."
Boosted by a near-capacity crowd of 4,577 at cozy Gentile Arena, the Ramblers battled back each time the Shockers tried to pull away in their first visit to Loyola's campus on the north side of Chicago since a 79-77 win on Feb. 9, 1976. It was just the third visit by a top-five team to the Ramblers' current home, joining No. 2 Michigan State in 2000 and No. 5 Kansas State in 2010.
But every time Wichita State got a little push from Loyola, it just went back to its versatile group of athletic big men. The Shockers had a 41-24 rebounding advantage and went 31 for 34 from the free throw line, compared to 11 of 14 for Loyola.
"Plus 17 on the glass is huge," Marshall said.
Chadrack Lufile had consecutive three-point plays to help Wichita State open a 52-36 lead with 15:43 to go. When the Ramblers pulled within 11 with 5.5 minutes left, Early made two foul shots and a 3-pointer to reach 1,000 career points and run the advantage back up to 16.
Darius Carter added 13 points for Wichita State, which can close out a perfect regular season with three more wins. After the visit by the Bulldogs, the Shockers travel to Bradley before returning home for a tricky little finale against Missouri State.
Wichita State trailed the Bears by 18 at halftime on Jan. 11, then rallied for a 72-69 overtime win.
Early made each of his first three shots and had eight points when he picked up his second foul with 8:24 left in the first half, sending the senior star to the bench. Wichita State extended its lead to 35-24 before the Ramblers began to take advantage of Early's absence inside.
White drove for a three-point play and Christian Thomas had a basket and free throw to help Loyola pull within five with 1:28 remaining. Carter responded with a strong layup on the other end and Matt O'Leary missed two 3s for Loyola in the final 42 seconds, leaving the Shockers with a 39-32 lead at the break.
Thomas finished with 12 points for Loyola, which trailed by as many as 17.
"They're really solid, obviously. They have a bunch of guys that know their role," Thomas said. "They're very disciplined. They defend, rebound, take care of the ball, and that's usually a recipe for good things."