December 24, 2014

Wichita State has won its last two in-season tournaments. If it shoots like it did in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic, a third will be difficult to come by.

That opportunity presents itself Thursday night in Honolulu against George Washington as the Shockers try to extend a substantial regular-season run against unranked opponents in the tournament's title game.

The 11th-ranked Shockers (10-1) have won 41 straight regular-season games against unranked opponents, but the latest was as close as it gets in Tuesday's 80-79 overtime win over Hawaii.

Wichita State shot 39.7 percent and connected on 6 of 24 3-pointers. Over its last four games, it's shooting 42.0 percent and has two one-point scares.

"We've got to shoot the ball better,'' said coach Gregg Marshall, whose backcourt has shown some inconsistency. "Fred (VanVleet) made the huge one at the end, and then (Tekele) Cotton is 1 for 5 and (Ron) Baker is 2 for 11. That's not going to get it done. The shots were good shots. Those are shots they've been making their whole career."

Baker, the leading scorer for the Shockers at 17.3 points per game, is 9 of 29 in his two tournament games with a 4-of-16 mark on 3-pointers.

Cotton is shooting 33.3 percent over four games.

VanVleet has struggled with his shot all season, hitting 38.5 percent after making 48.4 percent as a sophomore. He still had 13 points in the win over Hawaii and has started to pick it up from 3-point range. The junior has hit 5 of 12 over five games after opening the season with a 5-for-24 mark through six games.

His teammates seem confident his numbers will be where they need to be in due time.

"He makes everything look easy," said Baker, who led the Shockers with 17 points in the semifinals. "You aren't paying any attention and then you look up and he has 18 points and eight assists."

Forward Darius Carter has helped balance things out some. The first-year starter is averaging 14.4 points on 60.4 percent with 8.6 rebounds over the last five games and has reached double figures in each.

George Washington (8-3) reached the championship game with no more impressive of an offensive performance in Tuesday's 53-50 win over Colorado. The Colonials shot 38.6 percent and were 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

That outside shot has been particularly problematic, connecting on 6 of 32 (18.8 percent) over three games.

Top scorer Patricio Garino (14.3 points per game) was held to six points on 2-of-8 shooting, cooling off from a scorching stretch on which the 6-foot-6 swingman had averaged 16.4 points on 61.1 percent.

Third-leading scorer Kevin Larsen (11.3) was 1 for 8 after a similarly impressive stretch on which he averaged 15.2 points on 57.9 percent over five games.

Joe McDonald was the difference, scoring a team-high 14 after totaling seven in the previous two games.

"We hung in there and Joe McDonald battled,'' coach Mike Lonergan said. ''I think he was the key for our win.''

The fourth-year George Washington coach now wants to leave Hawaii with hardware.

"I came here six years ago when I was with Vermont when we made the semis," Lonergan said. "It was great - we went 2-1 - but for our guys, we want to go to the championship. That's our goal. Our goal is to win. We want to take that next step."

That'll require some improvement against the Top 25. The Colonials have dropped their last three against the Top 25 and 18 of 19.

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