In the most unlikely matchup of the college postseason, the Wichita State Shockers square off against the La Salle Explorers Thursday night in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament at the Staples Center.
Wichita State was the first team to knock off a No. 1 seed in Gonzaga last week in the Round of 32.
Cleanthony Early and Fred Van Vleet scored 29 combined points off the bench, and Ron Baker banged in four 3-pointers en route to 16 points in the Shockers 76-70 win over the Bulldogs.
Early, the 6-foot-8 junior forward, has been a revelation for the Shockers this season, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in both of their NCAA wins.
Baker bounced back from six points and no field goals against Pittsburgh, and netted his third double-digit scoring game of the year.
The Shockers last made this deep a run in 2006, when they lost to George Mason in the Sweet 16, but before that their last tournament victory was in 1981.
The Explorers have put together their own improbable streak, first dropping Boise State in the play-in round, then by upsetting Kansas State in the second, and haven’t gone this deep into the tournament since the mid-1950s by toppling No. 12 upstart Ole Miss 76-74.
Ramon Galloway has led the Explorers surge by averaging 21 points per game in the tournament, and 52 percent shooting from the beyond the arc.
Galloway scorched the net for six 3-pointers against Ole Miss, and second-leading scorer Tyreek Duren broke out of a shooting funk for 19 points and four rebounds.
Duren had hit two total field goals in the tournament prior to the victory over the Rebels, after averaging 14.4 points per game.
The winner takes on either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 6 Arizona in the Elite Eight.
The game tips-off at 10:15 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Wichita State is favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 135 points
Prediction: The Shockers have gotten this far with defense, holding Gonzaga to 35 percent from the floor. La Salle does have some talent scorers, but Wichita State should control the tempo from the start, and Early will be the high man again in a victory.
Predicted Score: Wichita State 72, La Salle 64
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