DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Wichita State soared past yet another overwhelmed Missouri Valley Conference opponent on Saturday night.
Now the Shockers could be in line for another leap in the national polls.
Cleanthony Early scored 19 points, Ron Baker added 14 and fifth-ranked Wichita State stayed perfect with a 78-61 win over Drake.
Wichita State’s latest win - combined with an ugly home loss by No. 4 Villanova to Creighton during the week and No. 3 Michigan State’s home defeat against No. 21 Michigan on Saturday - could put the Shockers (21-0, 8-0 MVC) in position to leapfrog both teams on Monday.
Coach Gregg Marshall appeared to be stumping for his team with what seemed to be a bit of a jab at Michigan State (18-2) after the game.
“Did the mighty Spartans lose again?” Marshall said as he left the podium following his postgame news conference.
The Shockers will have to wait until March for Michigan State or whoever else might stand in their way at another Final Four appearance.
For now, they’ll have to settle for pounding on teams in the Valley.
Drake was the latest to succumb to Wichita State’s acrobatic offense and suffocating defense.
Nick Wiggins had 11 points for the visiting Shockers, who outscored Drake 28-15 to open the second half and turn a relatively close game into a rout.
The Shockers have now won four straight by at least 15 points after an overtime scare at Missouri State two weeks ago.
Aaron Hawley had 16 points to lead Drake (11-9, 2-6), which lost for the sixth time in seven games.
“That team is extremely tough-minded,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti said. “Each possession offensively and defensively, they control their destiny. They don’t splinter ever. We were not able to make them splinter.”
The Bulldogs had their moments against the Valley’s top team, but Wichita State showed off its superior talent with a handful of game-defining plays.
Baker answered a Drake 3 with a three-point play through traffic with 15:45 left, and that kicked off a pair of spurts that overwhelmed the Bulldogs.