ST. LOUIS (AP) — The lasting impression for Cal Poly was Wichita State’s diligence on the less glamorous end of the court.
Even with just a so-so offense, the unbeaten Shockers cruised to a historic 35th win in a row largely because they never quit on defense. That’ll come in handy when the competition steps up Sunday against preseason No. 1 Kentucky.
“I know that these guys guard,” coach Gregg Marshall said after a 64-37 rout of the lone sub-.500 team in the field Friday night. “That’s what we ask them to do for 35 seconds. To hold a team under 40 is a great accomplishment, especially a team that won their league.”
Cleanthony Early had all but four of his 23 points in a dominating first half against a first-time NCAA entrant. Fred VanVleet had eight assists, Ron Baker had nine rebounds and Kadeem Coleby had four of the team’s six blocks in the 10th consecutive double-digit victory for the Shockers (35-0).
The losers managed just 13 points in the first half and shot 21 percent overall.
“Whoever we play is going to be a really good team with great athletes and great size,” Marshall said. “And this hopefully will serve as a good tuneup.”
Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds for No. 8 seed Kentucky (25-10) in a 56-49 victory over Kansas State.
“There haven’t been many teams come in undefeated like Wichita and deserve their ranking, deserve their seeding,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said. “Well coached. Gregg has done a great job with these guys.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis had double-doubles for No. 2 seed Kansas in an 80-69 victory over pesky Eastern Kentucky. The Jayhawks (25-9) will play Stanford (22-12), which got 23 points from Chasson Randle and two key late free throws from walk-on Robbie Lemons to eliminate No. 7 seed New Mexico 58-53.
“To step up there and make both of them, I said to our guys in the locker room how proud I was of him,” coach Johnny Dawkins said.
Wichita State surpassed the previous best start in 1991 by UNLV, which was 34-0 before losing to Duke in the national semifinals. The Shockers made the Final Four as a No. 9 seed last year and are downplaying the achievement.
“It’s been a great season thus far, 35-0 is awesome,” Marshall said. “Our goal is to get out of the weekend.”
Malik Love had nine points for Cal Poly (14-20), which won the Big West tournament as the No. 7 seed and beat Texas Southern in a First Four game before being held to a season low for points. Chris Eversley, the Big West tourney MVP and coming off a 19-point game, was held to six points on 2-for-14 shooting.
The high point for the losers came before tip-off when Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, a Cal Poly graduate, paid a visit. Guard Kyle Odister posed for a photograph and got an autograph.
“Definitely it was great to meet a legend,” Odister said. “He said we’d already won before the game started. It would have been nice to get a win, though.”
Aaron Harrison added 18 points for Kentucky, finally starting to live up to the expectations that came with its heralded recruiting class. Calipari’s bunch nearly knocked off Florida in the SEC title game last week and seemed to carry that momentum right into the Scottrade Center.
Marcus Foster had 15 points, Shane Southwell scored 11 and Thomas Gipson finished with 10 for Kansas State (20-13), which started in a 1-0 hole after a technical for a dunk in pregame warm-ups. The No. 9 seed then struggled to hit from the perimeter against Kentucky’s tall lineup.
Sophomore walk-on Brian Rohleder, who played only 31 minutes all season, earned the technical foul. NCAA rules prohibit dunking with less than 20 minutes until tip, and Rohleder’s dunk came with 19:58 showing on the clock.
Andrew Harrison made one of two free throws while fans from both schools showered the officials with derision.
Traylor finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Ellis had 14 points and 13 boards for the Jayhawks (25-9), who trailed 56-53 with 9 minutes to go before their game-ending charge.
Glenn Cosey hit five 3-pointers and had 17 points for 15th-seeded Eastern Kentucky (24-10), the Ohio Valley Conference champions. Tarius Johnson and Eric Stutz finished with 15 points apiece.
For most of the game, it appeared as if the Colonels just might follow in the footsteps of Mercer, North Dakota State and the rest of the scrappy underdogs who have crumpled millions of brackets. They led for all but 1:49 of the first half, and turned back the Jayhawks’ first big charge of the second before wilting down the stretch.
They simply couldn’t contend with the size of Kansas, which had a 43-19 rebounding advantage that translated into a 54-20 edge on points in the paint.
Stanford made the most of its first NCAA appearance since 2008, starting fast and finishing strong to earn a date against Kansas. New Mexico made another hasty exit.
“We came out energetic and ready to go,” Randle said after the Cardinal led almost start to finish. “We knew how big this game was. We definitely had enough confidence to finish out the game.”
Stanford built an early 16-point lead then held on after New Mexico rallied to tie it midway through the second half. Lemons and Randle each made two free throws in the final half-minute after New Mexico had cut the deficit to two points.
Cameron Bairstow had 24 points and eight rebounds but the Lobos (27-7) got off-days from their other top threats. Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, who together average 30 points, combined for just six.
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