December 23, 2014

While its stars remained relatively quiet, Wichita State's strong defensive effort sparked a previously struggling offense in its tournament opener in Honolulu.

As Darius Carter looks to continue his emergence, the 11h-ranked Shockers hope to build on the performance as they seek their sixth straight victory Tuesday night against host Hawaii in the semifinals of the eight-team Diamond Head Classic.

After shooting 41.1 percent from the field - including 14 for 46 (30.4) from 3-point range - in its previous two games, Wichita State (9-1) turned things around in Monday's 80-53 victory over Loyola Marymount in the tourney's quarterfinals.

The Shockers finished with a 46.4 field-goal percentage and hit 11 of 24 from beyond the arc while taking a step toward their third consecutive in-season tournament title. They also went 17 for 24 from the free-throw line after making just 56.9 percent over the prior three contests.

The defensive-minded Shockers, winners in 41 of 42 versus unranked nonconference opponents, outshot Loyola Marymount 56-38 and had a 32-19 edge on the boards. They forced 16 turnovers while limiting the Lions to five assists and holding them to 0 for 5 from 3-point range.

Wichita State has limited opponents to one of the nation's worst assist-to-turnover ratios at 0.58 and held them to 5-of-21 3-point shooting in the last three games.

''We're a defensive-minded team, and that's just something that coach (Gregg Marshall) harps on every day in practice,'' Carter said. ''We know what we have to go out there and do."

Carter had another solid effort with 12 points, eight rebounds - six offensive - while going 4 for 6 from the field in 18 minutes against the Lions. He's averaged 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds with a 62.5 field-goal percentage in his last four games.

The senior's dunk with 11.9 seconds left against Alabama last Tuesday sealed a 53-52 win that was Wichita State's school-record 23rd in a row at home.

''Darius Carter was a monster,'' Marshall said Monday. ''He could have easily gone for a double-double. There's no use in pushing him right now to pad stats. He was dominant on the offensive glass in the first half.''

Tekele Cotton appears to be back on track after he missed all six of his shots in a scoreless performance against the Crimson Tide. He scored eight of the Shockers' first 11 points Monday before finishing with 12 on 5-of-7 shooting.

Wichita State cruised to victory despite getting season-low point totals from stars Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Baker had 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while VanVleet added three while going 1 for 4.

Baker is averaging a team-high 17.7 points and has hit 46.0 percent from 3-point range, but he's 8 for 24 from beyond the arc in his last three games. VanVleet has failed to score in double figures in his last two since scoring 10 or more in six of eight.

The Rainbow Warriors (9-3) advanced in their own tourney despite shooting 37.5 percent and 4 of 18 from 3-point range in a 66-58 victory over Nebraska later Monday.

Aaron Valdes led the way with 15 points in Hawaii's fourth straight home win, leaving him with a 20.7 scoring average in his last three games overall.

The Warriors haven't faced a ranked team since a 77-63 loss at UNLV on Dec. 1, 2012. They've won seven of their last 12 at home against such opponents dating to January 1997.

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