ST. LOUIS — Cleanthony Early had 23 points and unbeaten Wichita State faced no resistance from Cal Poly, going to 35-0 for the best start in NCAA history with a 64-37 rout of Cal Poly in the Midwest Region on Friday night.
The Shockers (35-0) dominated from the tip-off against the only team with a sub-.500 record in the tournament. With the exception of Early, most of the glaring numbers were on defense. The losers managed 13 points in the first half and shot 21 percent.
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 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.
Fred VanVleet had eight assists, Ron Baker had seven points and nine rebounds and Kadeem Coleby had four of the team’s six blocks in the Shockers’ 10th consecutive double-digit victory and fourth straight in St. Louis where they won their first Missouri Valley Conference tournament title since 1987 by beating three opponents by an average of 20 points.
There was no suspense as second-ranked Wichita State surpassed the previous best start in 1991 by UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels went 34-0 before losing to Duke in the national semifinals. The Shockers made the Final Four as a No. 9 seed last year.
Sterner tests loom for Wichita State, with either preseason No. 1 Kentucky or Kansas State the next opponent on Sunday.
Cal Poly was 4-for-28 in the first half got outscored by Early, who had 19 points to help Wichita State take a commanding 32-13 lead.
Eversley’s 3-pointer opened the scoring with 18:46 to go not long after Coleby just missed converting an alley-oop dunk on the other end. The Mustangs missed 14 straight shots under suffocating pressure, often settling for out-of-range 3s, and mustered just two free throws before Kyle Odister’s 3-pointer ended a drought that lasted more than 11 minutes and made it 21-8.
More on-target shooting and Wichita State could have really opened it up. As it was, the Shockers had a 15-0 run before Odister’s 3, then ran off nine more in a row, before Cal Poly reached double figures with less than three minutes to go.