KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ron Baker scored 21 points, Tekele Cotton added 17 and No. 12 Wichita State seized control against DePaul with a big first-half run Monday night before cruising to a 90-72 victory in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.
Cleanthony Early added 15 points for the Shockers (6-0), who knocked off the Blue Demons last year during a tournament in Cancun before marching all the way to the Final Four.
They're proving that inspired NCAA tournament run was no fluke, either. Wichita State has barely been tested this season, though that should change Tuesday night. The Shockers will face BYU, which held off Texas 86-82 earlier in the night, in the tournament title game.
Brandon Young had 16 points and Tommy Hamilton scored 14 for DePaul (3-2), which has lost 44 consecutive games against Top 25 teams since beating Villanova in 2008.
Cheered on by former Wichita State star Xavier McDaniel, who was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday, the Shockers used a 16-0 first-half spree to take command.
Baker started the run spanning about 5 minutes with a pair of free throws, and Early knocked down a 3-pointer. But for the most part, the Shockers did their damage by slicing through the lane, taking advantage of the slower DePaul perimeter players for some easy layups.
Of course, they also took advantage of tighter rules against hand checking.
Fred VanVleet went to the rim to make it 32-21 before Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell called a timeout midway through the first half. Moments later, Baker did the same thing and Cotton was there to clean up his miss, prompting Purnell to burn another timeout with the lead 38-21.
DePaul tried to get back into the game, trimming its deficit to 46-34 with about 2 minutes left in the first half, but the Shockers scored the final six points before the break. They capped the run with two free throws by Early with 2.4 seconds left following a foul about 90 feet from the basket.
Purnell stalked after his team to the locker room, his jaw clenched tightly.
The game turned into a sluggish, disjointed affair in the second half, and for a while the Blue Demons took advantage of it. Young's basket with 10:56 left got DePaul to 64-51 and energized the few dozen fans wearing blue and red who'd been sitting most of the game.
The Shockers made them slouch back down in short order.
They made good on four straight trips to the foul line, and then Baker resumed going to the basket. He followed up a layup with a nifty reverse layup with just more than 8 minutes remaining, extending the lead to 72-52 and essentially putting the game away.
Wichita State, buoyed by a large contingent that made the 3-hour drive north on Interstate 35 to Kansas City's Sprint Center, cruised down the stretch to the easy victory.
It moved coach Gregg Marshall within 10 of matching Gene Smithson (155) for the second-most wins in school history. Ralph Miller holds the record with 220.