WICHITA, Kan. -- More later, but a few quick thoughts from Wichita State's 89-70 rout of No. 18 UNLV.
Overview: Early-season losses to Alabama and Temple seemed like a thing of the past for Wichita State following a commanding 89-70 victory over 18th-ranked UNLV at Koch Arena. Joe Ragland scored a career-high 31 points and Carl Hall added 17 for the Shockers, who completely annihilated a previously-unbeaten UNLV squad that defeated NCAA title contender North Carolina just eight days earlier.
This was the Wichita State team people had been expecting to see all along, the one that entered the season on the cusp of the top 25 and was tagged as the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference title. The Shockers proved Sunday that they'll definitely be in the hunt along with Creighton and Indiana State (and possibly Northern Iowa). They also picked up a much-needed out-of-conference win against a quality opponent that will look good on Selection Sunday.
Turning point: Ragland's 3-pointer midway through the first half broke an 18-18 tie and ignited a 9-0 scoring run for the Shockers, who were never threatened after that. Ragland had 19 points at intermission and made all five of his shots from beyond on the arc in the opening 20 minutes. As hot it was offensively, Wichita State also did a nice job on the other end by holding UNLV standouts Mike Moser and Chace Stanback to a collective 10 points in the decisive first half.
Why Wichita State won: The basket looked like a hula hoop to the Shockers, who made 59.3 percent of their shots. Whether it was Ragland pulling up from 3, Toure Murry connecting from midrange or Garrett Stutz or Hall muscling up for a short jumper inside, the Shockers seemingly couldn't miss.
Why UNLV lost: It's tough to beat any team that was as hot as Wichita State was Sunday. But the Runnin' Rebels definitely could've stepped it up on defense, where they often appeared soft and overmatched. The other factor was the sellout crowd of 10,269 at Koch Arena, which is one of the toughest road environments in all of college basketball. UNLV was clearly rattled and Dave Rice's squad missed badly on a number of shots.
Star of the game: Ragland, who had 19 of his career-high 31 points in the first half, is the easy choice here. The senior made eight his nine 3-point attempts to pace the Shockers. Ragland also went 5-of-6 from the foul stripe while notching three assists. Ragland entered the game averaging 8.7 points.
What’s next: Wichita State plays at Tulsa on Wednesday before hosting Utah State on Saturday. UNLV will regroup with what should be an easy win against Cal State-San Marcos Wednesday before traveling to Madison for a tilt with Wisconsin on Saturday.