West region: No. 9 Wichita St. 72, No. 13 La Salle 58: Shockers' inside game dominates

2013-03-29T00:00:00Z West region: No. 9 Wichita St. 72, No. 13 La Salle 58: Shockers' inside game dominatesDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - This one wasn't - pun intended - a shock.

Led by Malcolm Armstead's 18 points, the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers, playing as the higher seed for the first time this NCAA tournament, topped No. 13 La Salle 72-58 to advance to the Elite Eight.

The Shockers will face Ohio State, 73-70 winners over Arizona in the first of two games at Staples Center on Thursday night. The winner will represent the West Region in the Final Four.

"It's a big game, and I'm feeling another upset," junior guard Nick Wiggins said. "It's going to be fun."

It's the Shockers' first trip to the Elite Eight since 1981. Coach Gregg Marshall's team will now look to advance to the second Final Four in program history.

The Shockers won this one by dominating inside. Wichita State out-rebounded La Salle 47-29 and outscored the Explorers 40-26 in the paint.

Combined, big men Cleanthony Early, Ehimen Orukpe and Carl Hall combined for 26 points and 24 rebounds.

"They were smaller than us, and everybody knew that," Anthony said. "We have guys that are big and fast and can move their feet. I think people underestimated how well we can guard them, and we went out and showed we could do it."

It's the third straight impressive win for the Shockers. Wichita State beat Pittsburgh by 18 in its first game and then eliminated No. 1 seed Gonzaga 76-70 as a follow-up.

After a highly tense game against the Bulldogs in Salt Lake City, Thursday's win had little drama.

The Shockers (29-8) led 38-22 at halftime and extended that lead to 22 points early in the second half. Marshall's team wasted no time jumping on the Explorers, leading 14-2 right out of the gate.

"That was the game plan early on, to try to wear them down, pound it inside and get inside-out shots," Armstead said. "That's what we came up with, and that's what happened."

On the Shockers' whiteboard in the locker room, Marshall wrote two messages for his team, and they responded to both. The first read "don't be satisfied" and the other read "play angry." Orukpe explained what the latter means.

"Coach always tells us that when we just go out there and ball, we don't have success," Orukpe said. "He wants us to play like our hair is on fire and with passion and a purpose. That's playing angry."

The challenge now for the Shockers is to play angry for 40 minutes and advance to the Final Four. Wichita State hasn't made it that far since 1965.

"To me, it's just another opportunity," said guard Ron Baker, who finished with 13 points. "The next game we need to take the best chances and grab the opportunity the best we can. Forty minutes is a long game."

La Salle finished its 2012-2013 season with a 24-10 mark. The Explorers didn't have another upset in them after beating Kansas State and Mississippi in their first two games.

The Explorers shot just 35 percent from the floor (20 for 56) and were 8 for 30 in the first half.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

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