Wichita State blasts La Salle 72-58
Shockers advance to face Ohio State
Wichita State isn't used to being a favorite in the NCAA Tournament, but assuming the new role was no problem Thursday at Staples Center.
The ninth-seeded Shockers handily disposed of 13th-seeded La Salle, taking a 72-58 win in the NCAA Tournament West Regional semifinals in the first 9 vs. 13 Sweet Sixteen matchup.
The Shockers, who knocked off No. 1 Gonzaga in the Round of 32, advance to face second-seeded Ohio State on Saturday after the Buckeyes defeated Arizona 73-70 earlier in the day.
"It's a grind," said Wichita State's Malcolm Armstead, who scored a game-high 18 points. "You have to stay focused. Forty minutes away. Looking forward toward a dream come true."
Unlike their first two upset wins over Pittsburgh and Gonzaga, Wichita State was favored Thursday despite being a No. 9 seed.
Seconds into the game, the Shockers showed why.
The Explorers tied the game at 2 less than a minute in but never drew even again. The Shockers, who scored the next 12 points, simply shut down La Salle's offense.
Wichita State held the Explorers to 35.7 percent shooting and outrebounded upstart La Salle 47-29. The Shockers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
"They were all over the place; they came to play," Explorers guard Ramon Galloway said. "I can honestly say by far one of the most physical teams we've played. I'm looking at the rebounds ... it's just, they were after it. They won every 50-50 ball almost, and they got every rebound that they needed to get."
Added Armstead: "That was the game plan early on; try to wear them down, pound it inside and get inside-out shots. That's what we came up with, and that's what happened."
The Shockers jumped to a 38-22 halftime lead behind a relentless attack, and they rarely let up. La Salle fought to keep it close in the second half, cutting the gap to 11 midway through, but Wichita State continued pouring it on. The Shockers built the lead back up to 20 points to sail into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1981.
"Every good team is going to make a run, so it's just a matter of being able to sustain it," Armstead said. "It was just a matter of staying focus. This game wasn't going to be over until the clock hit zero-zero."
Added La Salle coach John Giannini: "They're quick, they're big, they're strong, they're deep, they played great team defense, and I'll tell you what -- we were going to have a chance to legitimately make it a game when we kept getting it to around that 10, 11 mark with plenty of time left.
"But Armstead was just huge at that time. He was absolutely huge."
In addition to Armstead's scoring and six rebounds, Wichita State game 16 points and eight boards from Carl Hall. Ron Baker added 13 points.
Tyrone Garland and Jerrell Wright each had 16 points for La Salle, and Galloway added 11 points and eight rebounds.
"Most teams we're quicker than, but their quickness was surprising," Giannini said. "The other thing they have going that most people don't know is the whole thing of playing 10-deep. They're very impressive; they're as good as anyone we played against all year."
NOTES: Wichita State last advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2006 after wins over Seton Hall and Tennessee. ... La Salle joined the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth squad as the only two First Four teams to advance to the Sweet 16. The Explorers are just the fifth No. 13 seed to make it to the tournament's second weekend, joining Bradley (2006), Oklahoma (1999), Richmond (1988) and Valparaiso (1998). ... Wichita State improved its all-time NCAA Tournament record to 11-10. ... La Salle last beat three ranked teams in 1954-55. ... The Shockers only returned 42 of 165 starts from last season's team entering this season. ... The Explorers haven't won four NCAA Tournament games since advancing to the title game in 1955. ... Wichita State's four-year run of 109 wins is the best in program history. ... Gregg Marshall became the first coach in Shockers history to win back-to-back conference coach of the year honors. ... Wichita State improved to 22-1 when leading at the half.