The NCAA tournament’s active scoring leaders are still active.
Wichita State senior guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet extended their careers Tuesday night by leading the Shockers to a 70-50 victory against Vanderbilt in a First Four battle of No. 11 seeds at UD Arena.
Baker and VanVleet each scored 14 points as Wichita State improved to 8-3 in the NCAA tournament since the pair began their careers with a Final Four run as freshmen in 2013.
“We’ve been here before,” VanVleet said. “Experience is very underrated in these scenarios.”
It wasn’t an explosive effort for the duo, but it was more than Vanderbilt (19-14) could match against a Wichita State defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring defense (59.3).
The Shockers (25-8) held the Commodores to 30-percent shooting from the floor, including 3 of 19 from 3-point range.
Baker and VanVleet combined for 15 of their points in a 16-0 run that spanned the first and second halves and put the Shockers ahead for good after eight lead changes.
“We knew we didn’t play our best (in the first half), and knew we had another gear,” VanVleet said.
Senior forward Anton Grady, playing in his first NCAA tournament game after transferring from Cleveland State, added 11 points for WSU. Grady asked for the ball from VanVleet as time was running out and lifted it above his head while giving it an appreciative shake.
Baker has 132 points in his 11 tournament games, while VanVleet has 127.
VanVleet also became the tournament’s active assists leaders with seven, giving him 45 to move ahead of Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine (38).
What’s next: Wichita State heads to Providence, R.I., where it will face No. 6 Arizona on Thursday.
Pivotal play: Vanderbilt was on an 11-2 run to get within 47-46 when Wichita State sophomore Zach Brown hit a 3-pointer with 9:03 to go. The shot settled the Shockers and started a 17-2 spurt that put the game away.
Unsung hero: Wichita State sophomore guard Conner Frankamp hit two 3-pointers in a span of a little more than two minutes during that 17-2 run. The second one gave the Shockers a 12-point lead with 3:53 to go. The six points were his first of the game, and he finished with eight.
Spotlight stat: Damion Jones, Vanderbilt’s second leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, was blanked for nearly 26 minutes and finished 2 of 6 from the floor and 1 of 7 from the free throw line for five points.
Crowd count: Tuesday night’s attendance was 12,130, and tonight’s games are sold out.