ST. LOUIS — Pardon the pun, but there was nothing shocking about Wichita State winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The top-seeded and unbeaten Shockers had four players score in double figures as they beat the second-seeded Indiana State Sycamores 83-69 Sunday in the championship game of the MVC Tourney.
The Shockers (34-0) won the tourney for the first time during its 24-year tenure in St. Louis, and they became only second team in NCAA history to start the season with 34 wins.
UNLV also went 34-0 in the 1990-91 season.
"The Big Dance is for all the marbles," Shockers guard Fred VanVleet said of earning the MVC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. "As competitors you look forward to that. We're just happy to get this done first. Our goal was to go 3-0 (in the tourney), and we did that."
Despite their perfect record, the Shockers head into the NCAA Tournament with plenty of skeptics who knock their level of competition.
Asked if he had any message for the naysayers, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall first declined comment.
Later he changed his mind and said, "I'm going to go with (Wichita State guard) Chadrack Lufile's tweet about two weeks ago. Wolves do not fret over the opinions of sheep."
There's a chance the Shockers could be back in St. Louis in a couple of weeks for the NCAA Midwest Regional finals.
Marshall said he has enjoyed his recent trips to St. Louis, which included watching his beloved Boston Red Sox beat the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series last fall and a 70-65 victory over St. Louis University in December.
"Yeah, it's certainly growing on me," Marshall said of the Gateway City. "It would be something that we're comfortable with. There wouldn't be any ooh-aah moments. I think we'd actually be staying, if we get the right seed, in the same hotel. We know the routine. The breakfasts are very good.
"So from that standpoint, it would be very good, and I think Shocker Nation travels pretty well. I think there would be a number of yellow and black clad fans in the stands."
The crowd of 12,125 -- the sixth largest turnout for the title game in MVC Tourney history -- contained a massive contingent of Shockers fans, dwarfing the Sycamores' cheering section.
That crowd saw the Sycamores trim a 15-point, second-half deficit to four points on a free throw by Dawon Cummings with 13:06 left.
The Sycamores trailed 55-50 when senior guard Jake Odum picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 10:08 left.
The Shockers promptly went on a 13-0 run that was keyed by three successive 3-pointers, including two from VanVleet.
The Sycamores whittled the Shockers' lead down to eight with 3:07 to go, but VanVleet scored seven points during a 9-3 surge that sealed the win for the Shockers.
VanVleet was the top scorer for Shockers with 22 points. He also five assists and five rebounds.
Tekele Cotton added 20 points, Ron Baker had 14 points and Cleanthony Early had 10 points.
Justin Gant and Manny Arop each had 18 points for the Sycamores (23-10), who likely will receive a postseason invitation but not to the NCAA Tournament.
"When you put your guts into something and it means so much, to see the disappointment on the guys' faces in the locker room, it's tough," Sycamores coach Greg Marshall said. "You want it so bad for them, and they deserve it. They deserved a championship and they deserved to play in the NCAA Tournament. We're not going to get to do it, but we're going to lick our wounds and roll out of here with our heads held high because we competed awfully hard against three good teams."
The Shockers had three players on the all-tourney squad, including Cotton, who was chosen as the Most Outstanding Player.
VanVleet and Early joined Cotton in earning All-Tourney honors as well as Odum and Evansville's D.J. Balentine.
Odum had only eight points on 2-for-9 shooting as he was hampered by a hand injury that he suffered in the first half.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.