No. 4 Wichita State rolls past Evansville, 81-67
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker had 14 points apiece, and fourth-ranked Wichita State withstood an early barrage by Evansville before cruising to an 81-67 victory Saturday that kept it among the nation's three unbeaten teams.
Cleanthony Early scored 13 and Tekele Cotton added 12 points for the Shockers (23-0, 10-0 Missouri Valley), who haven't lost since last year's surprising run to the Final Four.
Wichita State spotted Evansville a 15-point lead before using a massive run to carry the advantage into halftime. The Shockers merely had to coast the final 10 minutes as the lead approached 20 points, wrapping up their latest convincing conference victory.
D.J. Balentine scored 26 points for the Purple Aces (10-13, 3-7), who swept the season series from the Shockers a year ago. But the high-scoring sophomore, coming off a 43-point outing against Northern Iowa, didn't get a whole lot of help from a bunch of teammates mired in foul trouble.
Evansville lost for the ninth time in 10 road games this season.
Wichita State, meanwhile, maintained its focus heading into a trip to Indiana State on Wednesday night that should be its toughest remaining regular-season game. The Sycamores began the day two games back of the Shockers in the Valley, though they lost 68-48 when the teams met Jan. 18.
Incidentally, the only Valley school with a better start than the Shockers was the Indiana State team led by Larry Bird, which won its first 33 games before losing an iconic NCAA title game to Magic Johnson and Michigan State on March 26, 1979.
Just as other teams have done this season, Evansville actually jumped on Wichita State early, taking a 29-14 lead. The Purple Aces made their first eight shots, with assists on seven of them, and didn't miss until Balentine's 3-pointer was wide with 11:25 left in the half.
The Shockers never seemed to be worried, though.
Their comeback began when Baker scored with 8:12 remaining in the half, starting their game-changing 27-4 run spanning halftime and turning a 15-point deficit into a 41-33 lead.
Wichita State scored nine straight during the run, and then finished the half with 12 more unanswered. Darius Carter began the second half by getting a feed from VanVleet and slamming the ball through the rim, bringing another packed crowd inside Koch Arena to its feet.
Much of the run came with the Purple Aces in foul trouble.
Duane Gibson and fellow guard Adam Wing each had three fouls by halftime, and four others had two fouls apiece. That included Balentine, who sat on the bench for the final couple of minutes so that he wouldn't be tempted into picking up his own third foul.
The Purple Aces hung around until the midway point of the second half, when Evan Wessel's basket began a run of seven straight points that gave the Shockers a 70-52 lead.
Wichita State never allowed Evansville to get close for the final 8 minutes.