Evansville vs Wichita State

No. 4 Wichita State overcomes Evansville, moves to 23-0


WICHITA, Kan. -- It seems the only way anybody from the Missouri Valley Conference is going to spoil No. 4 Wichita State's unbeaten season is if the Shockers spot them a big enough lead.

So far, even that hasn't mattered a whole lot.

After allowing Evansville to race out to a 15-point lead on Saturday, the Shockers roared back behind big games from Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. The guards scored 14 points apiece to lead the Shockers to an 81-67 victory at Koch Arena.

''It's just realizing there's a lot of game left,'' Baker said of the comeback. ''Obviously there's a sense of urgency, but you just keep playing the game, keep grinding it out.''

It's become a theme for the Shockers (23-0, 10-0), who rallied from a 19-point deficit to defeat Missouri State earlier this season, and have often found themselves suffering through long stretches of poor play only to come out unscathed by the final buzzer.

So is there a deficit too big to overcome?

''Let's just hope we don't find out,'' Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. ''I'm sure there is, at this point not so far, but let's just hope we don't find out anytime soon.''

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.

''They play so hard and they're so active and they have so many good pieces,'' Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. ''I'm certainly proud of our team and the way we battled.''

Cleanthony Early added 13 points and Tekele Cotton had 12 for the Shockers, who haven't lost since last year's surprising run to the Final Four, and now face the toughest two-game stretch standing between them and an unbeaten regular season.

First up is Indiana State on Wednesday night, followed by a trip to Northern Iowa - the two closest teams to the Shockers in the Missouri Valley standings.

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.

''It's something a lot of people have talked about,'' Baker said. ''We're excited about it.''

Just as other teams have done this season, Evansville jumped on Wichita State early, building a 29-14 lead. The Purple Aces made their first eight shots, with assists on seven, 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 a 27-4 run spanning halftime and turning a 15-point deficit into a 41-33 lead. The charge was fueled by a three-quarter-court pressure that forced Evansville into several quick turnovers.

''When they're making their run, it's like pouring gasoline on the fire,'' Simmons said. ''That's something we have to learn from.''

It didn't help the Purple Aces that much of the run came with them 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.

''The way they started, I said, `Oh boy, here we go again,''' Marshall said. ''But we finally got stops. They missed a couple and we got out in transition and starting making some.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
Fred VanVleet and the Shockers overcome an early barrage to improve to 23-0 on the season. (USATSI)
Fred VanVleet and the Shockers overcome an early barrage to improve to 23-0 on the season. (USATSI)
Evansville (10-13)333467
Wichita State #4 (23-0) «394281
EVAN:D. Balentine 26 Pts
EVAN:D. Howard 5 Reb
EVAN:D. Gibson 7 Ast
WICHST:R. Baker 14 Pts
WICHST:C. Early 8 Reb
WICHST:F. VanVleet 5 Ast

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EvansvilleWichita State
D.J. Balentine
Fred VanVleet
Evansville Aces
D. Balentine, G3711-211-212226
B. Simmons, G-F332-72-41537
D. Gibson, G261-44-43746
A. Wing, G203-50-04057
E. Mockevicius, C163-42-24158
D. Howard, F243-61-65027
J. Brown, G221-20-02122
J. Moore, F-C172-20-02124
T. Ptacek, G30-30-00000
C. Benzon, G20-00-00000
R. Cesnulevicius, F-CDid Not Play
R. Sawvell, F-CDid Not Play
M. Brzoja, GDid Not Play
M. Leazer, GDid Not Play
Totals 26-5410-1822172567
Wichita State Shockers
R. Baker, G345-123-521014
F. VanVleet, G334-106-675114
T. Cotton, G284-62-212212
C. Early, F283-95-580013
K. Coleby, C161-42-66014
C. Lufile, F161-30-05022
E. Wessel, G131-22-24024
N. Wiggins, G133-41-22229
D. Carter, F113-53-50039
D. Green, F40-00-00000
Z. Bush, F20-00-00010
J. Simon, G20-00-00010
D. Bowles, GDid Not Play
R. Holland, GDid Not Play
S. Morris, FDid Not Play
Totals 25-5524-3335101581
Missouri Valley
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
N. Iowa0-05-1103
Missouri St.0-04-2138
So. Illinois0-02-1169
Illinois St.0-03-2113
Indiana St.0-02-3158

American Athletic
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Wichita St.0-04-136
So. Florida0-03-2268
E. Carolina0-02-2335
Other games
OHST 59 Final
UK 84 Final
BAYL 76 Final
MEMP 72 Final
SMU 87
GMU 81 Final
STL 87
MIST 60 Final
TXAM 36 Final
FLA 69
OKLA 75 Final
NOVA 90 Final
KAN 69 Final
MASS 68 Final
DUKE 89 Final
SYR 91
CSU 56 Final
IOWA 81 Final
ILL 74
UCF 70 Final
LOU 87
ARIZ 58 Final
CAL 60