Wichita State guard O.J. Lewis steals a rebound from La Salle guard Rohan… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
You could see it was going to be a problem for La Salle from the opening tip.
The basket on both ends of Staples Center was 10 feet from the floor and Wichita State players were always closer to it.
The four-guard rotation that got La Salle to the Sweet 16 stopped the Explorers from reaching the Elite Eight.
Wichita State's wall was just too much in a game that has always favored taller people. The Shockers also had too much energy and depth.
Wichita State jumped La Salle early and basically cruised to a 72-58 win Thursday night to advance to Saturday's West Regional final.
Wichita State will play Ohio State, with the winner advancing to next week's Final Four in Atlanta.
Wichita State is one game from reaching its first Final Four since losing to UCLA in the 1965 semifinals.
Here's the short story: La Salle was out-rebounded 47-29. The Explorers couldn't drive through the Shockers or shoot over them.
Wichita State held La Salle to 35.7% shooting (20 of 56), and only 27% in the first half.
La Salle's 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack, who was cleared after being out with a foot injury, did not play. La Salle Coach John Giannini said he didn't think Zack could move well enough to help the Explorers.
Wichita State raced to an early 17-3 lead and then withstood a series of mini-surges from La Salle.
Wichita State pushed a 16-point lead at halftime to 22 on consecutive three-pointers by Malcolm Armstead and Ron Baker to start the second half.
La Salle narrowed the lead to 11 but never got close enough to make Wichita State sweat.
"They were all over the place," La Salle guard Ramon Galloway said. "They came to play. They went after it. They won every 50-50 ball and got every rebound they needed to get."
La Salle, making its first NCAA tournament since 1992, also could have been tired after traveling 2,754 miles since leaving a week ago Monday for the "play-in" game.
The Explorers defeated Boise State in Dayton, then Kansas State and Mississippi in Kansas City before heading straight to Los Angeles.
"I think we were a little fresher," Shockers Coach Gregg Marshall said.
Wichita State advances to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1981, when the it defeated Southern, Iowa and Kansas before losing to Louisiana State in New Orleans.
In Thursday's game, senior forward Carl Hall set the tone early and Armstead dominated late.
Hall scored 10 of his team's first 14 points in the first four minutes of the game. He scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half.
He also finished with eight rebounds and three blocks.
Hall was the only unhappy Wichita camper coming out of the Salt Lake City bracket, underwhelmed with his one-rebound performance in the upset win over No.1 Gonzaga.
Marshall says Hall "marches to the beat of his own drum."
Hall is different, in an interesting way.
"You know what kind of day Carl is having by the amount of noise he is making," Marshall said.
When reporters asked Hall on Wednesday if he was concerned Marshall might leave the school for another coaching job, the senior said "I'm not going to be here next year."
Before the NCAA tournament, Hall unexpectedly cut his long dreadlocks for no reason other than to "shock" his team.
"Sent it to his mom in a box," Marshall said.
Marshall has a rule against long hair unless you had it when he recruited you.
Wichita State blitzed La Salle from the outset, the Shockers using their size advantage to control the boards and the scoreboard.
It was a 17-3 before Tyrone Garland made consecutive three-pointers to keep La Salle within contact.
La Salle cut the lead to eight on Galloway's three but Wichita State then went on a 13-5 run to end the half.
The last shot was freshman Baker's hanging runner from the right baseline.
With Hall in foul trouble, Armstead took over the second half.
He scored 12 of his game-high 18 points after intermission and put down every La Salle comeback attempt.
"Armstead was huge at that time," Giannini said. "He had three, four big buckets in a row. We were playing well enough at that time to have a chance. But Armstead wouldn't allow
Jerrell Wright and Garland had 16 points each for La Salle, while Galloway added 11.
Wichita State players were surprisingly subdued after their big win. The sense is they've come too far to go home now.
"It's a grind," Armstead said.
"We've got to stay focused. Forty minutes away. Just looking forward to a dream coming true."