Loyola coach Porter Moser looked out on the floor and saw exactly where he wants to take his program.
Unfortunately for Moser, his vision was wearing Wichita State uniforms Wednesday night.
Milton Doyle scored 18 points, but Loyola of Chicago struggled on the boards during an 88-74 loss to the third-ranked Shockers.
"As hard as it is to play them, I love playing them because this is where you want to be," Moser said. "This is who we're chasing and if you've got any competitive juices in you, you want to know who you're chasing and that's who everybody's chasing. They have a high standard to what they do."
Fred VanVleet scored 22 points on perfect shooting and Wichita State remained the only unbeaten team in major college basketball. VanVleet was 6 for 6 from the field and 10 of 10 at the free throw line.
"We want to be undefeated," he said. "We don't play the game to lose."
Wichita State and top-ranked Syracuse began the day as the last Division I schools with perfect records. But the Orange lost 62-59 to Boston College in overtime, and the Shockers used an 11-2 run early in the second half to help close out the Ramblers.
"Every single night in college basketball when you're playing another Division I program is a potential loss," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said, "especially on the road. These guys find a way."
Cleanthony Early scored 18 points as Wichita State became the 19th school to begin a season with 28 straight victories. VanVleet, who grew up in Rockford, Ill., also had eight rebounds and six assists with only one turnover.
"We're going to have to talk about that one turnover," Marshall cracked.
The Shockers (28-0, 15-0) can clinch the Missouri Valley Conference title with a victory at home against Drake on Saturday night.
Jeff White had 14 points for Loyola (9-18, 4-11), which has lost three straight and six of seven. Devon Turk finished with 13.
"They're phenomenal at capitalizing on your mistakes," Moser said. "They just don't leave you much room for error."
Boosted by a near-capacity crowd of 4,577 at cozy Gentile Arena, the Ramblers battled back each time the Shockers tried to pull away in their first visit to Loyola's campus on the north side of Chicago since a 79-77 win on Feb. 9, 1976. It was just the third visit by a top-five team to the Ramblers' current home, joining No. 2 Michigan State in 2000 and No. 5 Kansas State in 2010.
But every time Wichita State got a little push from Loyola, it just went back to its versatile group of athletic big men. The Shockers had a 41-24 rebounding advantage and went 31 for 34 from the foul line, compared to 11 of 14 for Loyola.
"Plus 17 on the glass is huge," Marshall said.
Chadrack Lufile had consecutive three-point plays to help Wichita State open a 52-36 lead with 15:43 to go. When the Ramblers pulled within 11 with 5½ minutes left, Early made two foul shots and a 3-pointer to reach 1,000 career points and run the advantage back out to 16.
Darius Carter added 13 points for Wichita State, which can close out a perfect regular season with three more wins.
Early had eight points when he picked up his second foul with 8:24 left in the first half, sending the senior star to the bench. Wichita State extended its lead to 35-24 before the Ramblers began to take advantage of Early's absence inside.
White drove for a three-point play and Christian Thomas had a basket and free throw to help Loyola pull within five with 1:28 remaining. Carter responded with a strong layup on the other end and Matt O'Leary missed two 3s for Loyola in the final 42 seconds, leaving the Shockers with a 39-32 lead at the break.
Thomas finished with 12 points for Loyola, which trailed by as many as 17.
"They're really solid, obviously. They have a bunch of guys that know their role," Thomas said. "They're very disciplined. They defend, rebound, take care of the ball, and that's usually a recipe for good things."