Fred VanVleet led the way for the Shockers (29-4) after a slow start, taking the ball to the hoop often against an Indiana team that, because of injury, was short on rim protectors. VanVleet matched his career high with 27 points.
OMAHA, Neb. — Wichita State senior Darius Carter had just turned to head up the court when an elbow caught him in the kisser.
The impact pushed one of his front teeth back into his mouth, and he thought he was going to lose it. The tooth was saved, and Carter was out of the game for only a few minutes. When he came back, he dunked.
Yeah, he was playing angry, as is the Shockers’ mantra.
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“I let out a big scream and I felt a release,” he said. “I just wanted to win, that’s all.”
Carter returned in time for Wichita State’s decisive run in an 81-76 victory over Indiana on Friday in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament, setting up a much-anticipated Sunflower State showdown against second-seeded Kansas.
“I’m thankful I got my tooth,” Carter said. “That would be a bad look, to not have a front tooth.”
As it was, there were toothy smiles all around as No. 7 seed Wichita State won its tournament opener for the third straight year in its typical bruising style.
Fred VanVleet led the way for the Shockers (29-4) after a slow start, taking the ball to the hoop often against an Indiana team that, because of injury, was short on rim protectors. VanVleet matched his career high with 27 points and Ron Baker, who struggled from the field, made 7 of 8 free throws in the last two minutes.
And now, finally, the Shockers can talk about their first game against the Jayhawks since 1993.
“It’s a big thing for the state of Kansas,” said Baker, who hails from Scott City. “A lot of houses are going to be divided. Being a player from Kansas, I’m really fortunate to be in this game. These types of games don’t happen a whole lot.”
Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell scored 24 points for No 10 seed Indiana (20-14). James Blackmon Jr. added 14 points, and Troy Williams and Collin Hartman had 11 apiece.
“We’re not happy with the outcome today. Certainly we could have played better,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “But I have zero disappointment in the way these guys battled, competed and persevered throughout the season.”
The Shockers trailed by eight points in the first half and played from behind most of the game before going on a 15-3 run in the middle of the second half for their biggest lead at 65-57.
Maryland 65, Valparaiso 62
At Columbus, Ohio, Dez Wells converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play with 1:44 left and Varun Ram stripped away Valparaiso’s last chance as the Terrapins held off the determined Crusaders.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins (27-6), in the tournament for the first time since 2010, advanced to face West Virginia.
Alec Peters led 13th-seeded Valparaiso with (28-6) with 18 points.
West Virginia 68, Buffalo 62
At Columbus, Ohio, Tarik Phillip hit a three-pointer with 28 seconds left while the shot clock was winding down, adding the clinching points as the fifth-seeded Mountaineers (24-9) held off the Bulls.
Mid-American Conference tournament champion Buffalo (23-10) did not score over the final 2:42 against the physical Mountaineers.
Kansas 75, New Mexico State 56
At Omaha, Neb., Frank Mason III scored 17 points to lead a balanced attack, and the second-seeded Jayhawks (27-8) rolled to a victory over No. 15 seed New Mexico State, giving the beleaguered Big 12 its first NCAA tournament victory in four tries this March.
DK Eldridge had 11 points for the Aggies (23-11), who had won 13 straight while sweeping the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles.