ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cleanthony Early scored 20 points with three 3-pointers and a pair of dunks, and No. 2 Wichita State improved to 33-0 with little resistance in a 67-42 rout of Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals Saturday.
Tekele Cotton also made three 3-pointers for the top-seeded Shockers (33-0), who matched the start by Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979 before they lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the NCAA title game. Wichita State will be heavily favored against Indiana State or Southern Illinois to make it 34 in a row, which would match the NCAA-record start by UNLV in 1990-91.
The Shockers, who last won the conference tourney in 1987, took control with a 17-0 run in the first half and topped it with 24 straight points in the second, scoring at will while Missouri State endured droughts totaling more than 15 minutes.
Missouri State (21-11) gave Wichita State its closest call in the regular season, losing by three in overtime at home in January after squandering a 19-point lead. The Bears got away with 33 percent shooting in the quarterfinals against Illinois State but were blown out shooting 31 percent against the Shockers.
Cotton added 13 points, and Fred VanVleet had nine points and five assists.
Gavin Thurman led Missouri State with nine points. Austin Ruder was held to four points on 2-for-7 shooting after going 6 for 12 from 3-point range and scoring 21 points in the quarterfinals.
Wichita State went to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed last season and is closing in on a No. 1 seed this March.
Early had his two dunks, celebrating a bit on the way back down court each time, and was among seven players scoring during the 24-0 run that made it 61-23 with 8:58 to go.
The Shockers were 8 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half, with five of them coming in the 17-0 run.
Missouri State went more than 6 1/2 minutes without a point before Thurman scored in the lane with 2:13 to go in the half. The Bears trailed 33-19 at the half, their lowest first-half scoring output this season.