Fred Van Vleet

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No. 7 Wichita State outclasses No. 2 Kansas, earns second Sweet 16 appearance in three years


The matchup between No. 7 Wichita State and No. 2 Kansas was one that folks in the Sunflower State have been looking to see for quite some time. With the two programs being the best in the state at this time, Sunday’s matchup in Omaha was seen as long overdue given the fact that the Shockers and Jayhawks hadn’t met since 1993.

Gregg Marshall’s team took full advantage of the opportunity, as they erased an eight-point first half deficit by the intermission and took over from there. Wichita State won by the final score of 78-65, earning a trip to Cleveland for next week’s Midwest Regional against No. 3 Notre Dame. The Shockers received contributions from stars and role players alike, and they were simply the tougher team on the court.

While the three-headed perimeter attack of Tekele Cotton (19 points, two rebounds, three assists), Fred Van Vleet (17 points, six rebounds, six assists) and Ron Baker (12 points, three rebounds, two assists) were all productive, the contributions of Evan Wessel and Zach Brown were important as well.

With Darius Carter (ten points, four rebounds) and Shaq Morris both saddled with early foul trouble the undersized Wessel provided Wichita State with both toughness and perimeter shooting. Despite playing against a bigger front line, Wessel accounted for 12 points (four three-pointers) and nine rebounds and his three-pointer with 4:15 remaining in the first half sparked the 13-2 run that gave Wichita State a three-point lead at the intermission.

Wessel (nine points on 3-for-5 3PT) and Brown (five of his seven points) combined to score 14 points in the second half, a period in which Wichita State carved up the Kansas defense. Van Vleet was able to make plays off the dribble against the Jayhawks’ man defense, and an ill-fated shift to zone simply resulted in the Shockers finding open perimeter shooters. Kansas had no answer from a strategic standpoint, but the bigger issue was that Bill Self’s team couldn’t answer the call from a toughness standpoint either.

Wayne Selden went scoreless, missing all five of his shots from the field, and Kelly Oubre wasn’t much better as he tallied nine points on 3-for-9 shooting. If not for Frank Mason III (16 points, six rebounds), Perry Ellis (17 points, eight rebounds) and Devonte’ Graham (17 points, three assists) the margin would have been much worse and Landen Lucas’ ten rebounds can’t be overlooked either.

But overall, Kansas didn’t have the same conviction to get to where they needed to go on the floor as Wichita State and that hurt them offensively.

The Jayhawks shot just 35.1 percent from the field, as Wichita State’s defense limited the number of quality looks Kansas could find. Add in the fact that Wichita State shot 59.3 percent in the second half, and the Shockers were able to eliminate any chance of a comeback down the stretch.

With this win the Shockers have now won 30 games or more in each of the last three seasons, with last year’s 35-1 campaign sandwiched in between a Final Four run in 2013 and this year’s Sweet 16 appearance. Their motto of “play angry” reveals Wichita State’s intention every time they step on the floor, and failing to match the Shockers in that regard will result in defeat. Kansas learned that the hard way in Omaha Sunday evening.

Fred Van Vleet scores 27, No. 7 Wichita State advances

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No. 7 Wichita State will get their shot at No. 2 Kansas.

The Shockers knocked off No. 10 Indiana 81-76 on Friday afternoon, using a 15-3 run in the second half to take a 65-57 lead that they would never look back from. The Hoosiers cut the lead to one with two minutes left after Yogi Ferrell and Colin Hartman hit back-to-back threes, but the Shockers were too much down the stretch.

Fred Van Vleet led the way for the Shockers, finishing with 27 points and four assists. He scored 19 of those 27 points in the first half, as Indiana came out of the gates on fire while Van Vleet’s teammates struggled to get into a rhythm. They were overwhelmed on the offensive glass by the Hoosiers — which is saying something, Indiana is not a good rebounding team — and Ron Baker couldn’t buy a bucket.

In fact, Baker played about as poorly as I’ve ever seen him play in the first 20 minutes. He finished the afternoon with 15 points, but he was just 3-for-13 from the floor and wasn’t anything other than a decoy offensively for much of the second half. He was 2-for-9 from the floor with three turnovers in the first 12 minutes, but he played well defensively down the stretch and hit a couple of big free throws.

The biggest play of the game came from Tekele Cotton. With the Shockers up just 74-72 with under a minute left, Marshall called a timeout and drew up a beautiful set, one that resulted in a back-screen for Cotton, who received a pass from Darius Carter on the block and scored over James Blackmon.

Indiana wouldn’t truly threaten again.

The Shockers will advance to take on Kansas in what will be the most intriguing game of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Long story short: Kansas and Wichita State are the two best basketball programs in the state, but they don’t play each other. Wichita State will tell you it’s because Kansas is scared. Kansas will tell you it’s smart business; when they’re pulling recruits out of the Wichita, they don’t want to have the hometown school beat them.

There’s more to the story as well. Former Kansas guard Connor Frankamp transferred out of the program in November. Where did he transfer to? Wichita State. Will the Jayhawks adjust their play calls or add anything else into their offense?

With all due respect to Indiana and New Mexico State fans, this is the matchup that we all wanted to see.

Freshmen Tyus Jones, Melo Trimble among finalists for Bob Cousy Award

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Friday morning the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, annually given to the nation’s best point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, were announced. Among the players on the list are two of the nation’s best freshmen, Duke’s Tyus Jones and Maryland’s Melo Trimble.

They’re the only two first-year players on the list, which includes six seniors, five juniors and four sophomores.

From a conference standpoint the Pac-12 leads the way with four finalists, with Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, Cal’s Tyrone Wallace, Utah’s Delon Wright and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss being the players on the list. In total nine conferences are represented. Also making the cut is BYU junior Kyle Collinsworth, who has tallied an NCAA-record five triple-doubles this season.

Below is the list of finalists for the award, which was won by UConn’s Shabazz Napier last season.

2015 Bob Cousy Award Finalists

T.J. McConnell, Arizona (senior)
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU (junior)
Tyrone Wallace, California (junior)
Ryan Boatright, UConn (senior)
Tyus Jones, Duke (freshman)
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (senior)
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (senior)
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (junior)
Monte Morris, Iowa State (sophomore)
Terry Rozier, Louisville (sophomore)
Melo Trimble, Maryland (freshman)
Marcus Paige, North Carolina (junior)
Kris Dunn, Providence (junior)
Delon Wright, Utah (senior)
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (sophomore)
Juwan Staten, West Virginia (senior)
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (junior)