Shockers blast Ramblers for 10-straight victories

Evan Pflugradt

In three seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference, Loyola head coach Porter Moser has tallied some impressive conference victories, but one goal stands in his way — a victory over Wichita State.

The Shockers defeated Loyola 80-54 for their 10th consecutive win Wednesday night.

Elite defense. The winning recipe Gregg Marshall willingly clings to.

But the offense offered the most crushing blow to Moser and the Ramblers.

“It’s easy to say we didn’t play well,” Moser said. “The reality is that they make you play bad. They hit us the hardest with their offense in the early going.”

The Shockers entered the half with a 13-point lead on Loyola, holding their opponent to a 27 percent shooting percentage and only eight first-half field goals.

The Ramblers came out of halftime with a different mentality. They connected for five of their first six baskets of the half, inching their way down to an 11-point deficit.

Senior Anton Grady picked up his third foul of the game and joined teammate Shaq Morris on the bench.

At the second media timeout of the second half, the team CBS Sports Network introduced a sideline segment bringing the 2015 World Series trophy out on the court, and with that the Shockers adopted the winning mentality that rallied the Royals to victory in early November.

On the next offensive possession Wichita State guards pushed the ball around the perimeter to handle the zone pressure from Loyola. Not a useful plan when redshirt sophomore Conner Frankamp takes the floor.

Frankamp layed up a three-point basket and the Shockers pushed things to a 20-point margin.

Things started to run together as Markis McDuffie distributed out to an open Rashard Kelly, who finished at the glass for a the layup. The next play McDuffie distributed out to VanVleet who hit a three-point basket.

Rolling with a 26-point lead the team decided to show off their craftiness. Frankamp wrapped around his back to find VanVleet for a second-straight three.

Fueled by the energy of Charles Koch Arena, the team played like nothing stood in their way. Feeding off the crowd’s momentum, VanVleet threw up the alley-oop to Rashard Kelly for a dunk jolting the team to a widening gap that would raise to over 30 points.

“Throwing lobs is fun for me and whoever is catching it,” said VanVleet. “I enjoy seeing other guys score. It gets me going, it gets the crowd going. When the crowd gets into it, it can rattle the other team.”

There stands only three remaining home games for the Shockers’ two All-Americans, but with the days limiting the reality sits in on how it’s a team effort.

Together the star duo recorded a combined 16 points on 12 shots. In many ways they’re taking a backseat to the rising talent of their teammates. The All-Americans combined for thirteen assists in route to a game where the unselfishness festered eliteness.

“(Baker and VanVleet), they took only six shots, each of them,” said Marshall. “They’re team players, winners.”

The Shockers recorded 22 assists on 28 made baskets.

“You don’t want to harness the unselfishness that this team plays with,” said Marshall.

The pressure has briefly lifted off the shoulders of Marshall’s prized seniors. Unselfishness has led the spotlight to shine down on Marshall’s rising stars. Shaquille Morris led the team in scoring with 12 points on 6-8 shooting.

Morris said he was challenged with mid-term grades posted Tuesday in the locker room. Teammate Fred VanVleet promised Morris that he would earn a day off if he recorded 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block.

Morris took his point guard’s words to heart. After securing his first rebound of the game Morris looked to VanVleet and mouthed ‘that’s one.’

“He’s just growing up and maturing,” said VanVleet of Morris. “Nobody can take credit for what he’s doing but him.”

Though Marshall has known the talent of his All-American backcourt for sometime, the true depth and talent of this team is a lesson even the ninth-year coach is wrapping his head around.

The Shockers stand with a one-game lead on the Missouri Valley Conference, they next travel to take on Evansville on Sunday.