Wichita State came out early against La Salle to establish a physical presence and take a strong lead against the Explorers. They kept that lead, and the game was never really in doubt as the Shockers marched to a 72-58 victory.
The Shockers took a balanced approach in distributing the basketball, but it was Malcolm Armstead that led the way with 18 points. Carl Hall and Ron Baker contributed 16 and 13 points respectively while their leading scorer on the season, Cleanthony Early, added eight.
La Salle won three games in five days last week, defeating Boise State, Kansas State, and Ole Miss en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Jerrell Wright and Tyrone Garland led the way for the Explorers with 16 points a piece.
Looking ahead, Wichita State’s Elite Eight opponent, Ohio State, entered Thursday as the favorite to emerge from the West bracket, and, despite the Shockers’ strong performance, that has not changed. If the Shockers are to win, they will have to continue to dominate in the paing and bring the same level of physicality that has brought them this far.
Going into Saturday’s matchup against the Buckeyes, it is clear that the Shockers will not be taken likely as they have already beaten a very tough Pitt team that held their own in the Big East, top seeded Gonzaga, and now a team in La Salle that had won 3 NCAA Tournament games.
The matchup may difficult for Ohio State as the balance and interior presence of the Shockers is such that they could continue their unexpected march. It is hard to imagine them beating the Buckeyes, but Ohio State’s presence in the Elite Eight has required two last second shots showing some real vulnerability moving forward.