Braves cower while the Shockers tower

Bradley coach Geno Ford didn’t specifically compare the Shockers to a pack of piranhas, but it might be an apt comparison after their 73-39 thrashing of the Braves on Saturday in Koch Arena.

“When they smell some blood in the water, they hit another level of energy. And the crowd is a significant part of it,” Ford said. “When they get on a run, they don’t go on small runs. They go on big runs. And they do that to everybody.”

Wichita State (19-2, 8-1 Missouri Valley Conference) was hardly intimidating for most of the first half, holding only a one-point lead with 3:39 to play.

It was around this time that the Shockers’ killer instinct kicked in, and a flurry of a finish gave WSU a 32-23 halftime lead.

And that was just the beginning of the punishment Bradley (12-9, 4-5 MVC) would have to endure for the remainder of the game.

“The first 15 minutes had me scared. They were doing a great job of keeping the tempo down and milking the clock when they were on offense,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “The last 25 minutes we were good. About as well as we can play.”

Bradley was able to keep the deficit to nine points for about the first five minutes of the second half before the Shockers’ “piranha” attack took over.

A suffocating press by WSU forced Bradley into 14 turnovers for the game and only 28.6 percent shooting from the field in the second half.

A 16-0 Shocker run in the second half was an exhibition of near-perfect basketball, which helped Wichita outscore Bradley 41-16 in the second half.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen our group struggle like that in the open floor,” Ford said. “Their press was the difference in the game. Give them credit. They sniffed out exactly what we were trying to do.”

In true Shocker fashion, Marshall played all 10 available players. Each one of them scored and only Chadrack Lufile played less than 15 minutes.

Four different Shockers scored in double digits, led by Nick Wiggins with 12 points, including a 3 for 3 night from beyond the arc.

Jake White was impressive off the bench as well, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds. As a team, the Shockers out-rebounded Bradley 44-21.

“It felt good to have some guys come in and step up, play really good minutes,” Shocker forward Cleanthony Early said. “We are going to need more of that regardless if it’s a win by 30 or five points.”

The Shockers’ 34-point win on Saturday is the second over Bradley this season, the first a 69-63 win on Jan. 6.

The win also gives WSU the Valley lead midway through conference play. But in a competitive league, the Shockers realize leads can disappear in a hurry.

“Not comfortable but it feels good,” Early said about leading the MVC. “At the same time, it doesn’t really mean anything if it doesn’t have a championship at the end of it.”

Next for the Shockers is a visit from Indiana State (13-7, 6-3 MVC) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.