By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — No. 4 Wichita State relied on the basics Sunday: defense and ball security.
Again, it was the perfect combination.
The Shockers forced 18 turnovers, finished with a season-high 14 steals and finally locked down Evansville’s shooters late to pull away for an 84-68 victory that kept them one of the nation’s two undefeated teams.
“We wanted to extend them, get their timing disrupted. I don’t think we expected that many steals,” Fred VanVleet said. “There were only a few times where we had breakdowns where we weren’t really where we were supposed to be.”
Few expected the Shockers (27-0, 14-0 Missouri Valley Conference) to be in this spot — even after reaching the Final Four last April.
They are one of only 21 teams in NCAA history to win their first 27 games, extended their school-record winning streak and are 14-0 in conference play for the first time in school history.
And after Arizona’s latest loss, Wichita State could be poised to move up another notch in the poll, getting even closer to Division I’s only other perfect team — No. 1 Syracuse. A win Wednesday at Loyola also would assure the Shockers at least a share of the regular-season conference title and the No. 1 seed in the Valley tournament — with three league games still on the docket.
How have they done it?
With a balanced offense and a staunch defense that Evansville knows is the best in the Valley.
Wichita State trumped the Purple Aces by outscoring them 23-2 off turnovers and 10-4 on fastbreaks. Coach Gregg Marshall didn’t even need a stat sheet to tell him what had happened. He estimated that the Shockers topped the 40-deflection mark.
The other numbers were just as glaring.
VanVleet and Ron Baker each finished with a career-best five steals, and, not surprisingly wound up as the top scorers. Baker had a career-high 26 points, while VanVleet added 18 and eight assists and flirted with the possibility of a triple-double throughout the second half.
No. 18 CREIGHTON 101
No. 6 VILLANOVA 80
OMAHA, Neb. — Doug McDermott matched his season high with 39 points and passed Larry Bird for 13th place on the Division I career scoring chart during Creighton’s victory over Villanova.
Creighton’s second lopsided win over Villanova in a month moved the Bluejays (21-4, 11-2) into first place in the Big East, a half-game ahead of the Wildcats (22-3, 10-2).
McDermott, a two-time first-team All-America and leading candidate for national player of the year, went over 30 points for the ninth time this season and the 23rd time in his career. He has 2,863 career points.
Isaiah Zierden scored 13 and Devin Brooks added 12 for the Bluejays, who shot a season-best 64.2 percent. Their previous high was 56.9 percent in a 96-68 win at Villanova on Jan. 20.
James Bell had 18 points for the Wildcats before fouling out with 6:11 left.
No. 9 MICHIGAN STATE 51
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Terran Petteway scored 23 points and Walter Pitchford added 18 as Nebraska topped Michigan State.
Petteway had 16 points in the last 20 minutes after Pitchford scored 12 before the break for the Cornhuskers (14-10, 6-6 Big Ten).
Gary Harris had 18 points and Adreian Payne 11 for the Spartans (21-5, 10-3), who remain in a first-place tie with Michigan. Harris was 5 for 15 from the field. Michigan State shot 34 percent, including 20.8 percent on 3-pointers.
The Cornhuskers led 32-25 at halftime and held off a second-half surge with a 9-2 closing run.
No. 13 LOUISVILLE 102
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Luke Hancock scored a career-high 25 points, including six 3-pointers, and Louisville throttled Rutgers.
The Cardinals (21-4, 10-2 American Athletic Conference) made a season-high 16 shots from beyond the arc on 30 attempts for their fourth straight win, completing a season sweep of the Scarlet Knights (10-16, 4-9). Louisville shot 56 percent overall in posting its biggest win this season.
Freshman guard Terry Rozier added a career-high 16 points, hitting four 3s, and Wayne Blackshear scored 10 with a couple of 3-pointers in Louisville’s last scheduled conference game against Rutgers.