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Shockers stop Sycamores, remain unbeaten

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet is used to the jeers that greet the fourth-ranked Shockers every time they step into an opponent’s arena.

“They don’t boo anybody that’s not any good,” VanVleet said. “It’s a sign of respect.”

They were hissing Wednesday night at the Hulman Center when the Shockers used their characteristic stout defense to hold off Indiana State’s upset bid and take a 65-58 Missouri Valley Conference victory.

Forward Cleanthony Early scored a game-high 19 points, including a critical three-point play with 1:03 left, as Wichita State (24-0, 11-0) remained one of two unbeaten teams in Division I. Shockers guard Tekele Cotton chipped in 14.

The difference on a night when the Shockers were held to their second-lowest point total by a conference foe was Wichita State’s defense. The Sycamores shot a miserable 6-for-30 (20 percent) from the floor after halftime and also missed six of 11 free throws over the final 4 minutes, 41 seconds.

“Twenty-three points in the second half is more to our liking,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said, referring to the total posted by the Sycamores. “That was quite a battle and quite a game.”

The Shockers weren’t terribly efficient offensively in the second half, converting just eight of 23 (34.8 percent) from the field and missing all eight of their 3-pointers. However, Early delivered when his team needed it the most.

Indiana State (17-6, 8-3) had a chance to tie after calling a timeout with 1:22 left, but center Justin Gant’s layup was blocked by forward Darius Carter. Early drove the ball to the hoop and drew a blocking foul from point guard Jake Odum as he scored his team’s only field goal over the last 4:54.

Early, who took only two shots in 12 mostly invisible first-half minutes, scored 15 points after halftime.

“I tried to get to the paint more in the second half,” he said. “I hung around the 3-point line a lot in the first half.”

Center Chadrack Lufile iced the game for Wichita State by canning four of six free throws in the final 43 seconds, capping an eight-point, 10-rebound effort in only 14 minutes.

Forward Manny Arop led the Sycamores with 16 points, but he managed just a single free throw over the final 19:25 as Shockers guard Ron Baker locked him up. Odum and reserve forward Khristian Smith each scored 11 for Indiana State.

It was a difficult loss for Indiana State, which lacks a meaty win on its resume and probably will need to take the MVC tournament March 7-9 in St. Louis to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.

“I told the guys afterwards that we did everything we could do to win this game except put the ball in the basket,” Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said. “We played our tails off, but we just didn’t play well enough.”

Although the Shockers did not arrive in town until nine hours before the 8:05 p.m. tipoff — their charter flight Tuesday was cancelled because of Winter Storm Niko, which ripped through Terre Haute — Wichita State began the game hot.

The visitors scored on five of their first six possessions, building an 11-3 lead on a fast-break layup by Baker less than three minutes into the game. The Shockers maintained their lead throughout the half, expanding it to 28-19 when Baker stuck a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Indiana State finished the half on a 13-5 run, thanks mostly to Arop. He bagged nine points over the last 3:18, including a high-arcing jumper with a toe barely on the 3-point line just before the halftime buzzer that cut Wichita State’s edge to 36-35.

Arop scored to start the second half, giving the Sycamores their only lead of the night. From there, the Shockers’ defensive vise grew tighter and tighter.

“There was a lot riding on this,” Marshall said. “We had a lot at stake. We were playing a really good team tonight. We were just able to score a few more baskets and win the game with our defense in the second half.”

NOTES: Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Wichita State leads Division I in road winning percentage at .810, going 34-8 in that span. … Indiana State is one

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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