EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Wichita State’s offense may not be as efficient as it was last season, but its defense is every bit as tough.
High-scoring Evansville found out the hard way Saturday as the No. 13 Shockers completely stifled the Purple Aces in their 24th straight Missouri Valley Conference win, a 61-41 decision.
Wichita State (16-2, 6-0 MVC) got 18 points apiece from guard Ron Baker and forward Darius Carter, but it made only 41.3 percent of its field-goal tries and managed just two buckets in an 8 1/2-minute stretch of the first half.
But it didn’t really matter, not with the Shockers clamping down on a team which entered the game leading the conference in scoring at 74.6 points per game.
Evansville connected on just 15 of 50 field-goal attempts and endured a scoring drought of 9:13 in the first half, missing eight shots and committing five turnovers in that span.
Guard D.J. Balentine ended the stretch by canning a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left in the half, cutting the Aces’ halftime deficit to 28-18. But they never got the lead under 10 points in the second half, trailing by as many as 23 after Baker drilled a 3 with 8:41 remaining.
Balentine paced Evansville (13-5, 3-3) with 16 points, but shot only 6 of 17 from the floor, taking a spate of contested shots against senior guard Tekele Cotton. Center Egidijus Mockevicius was held to a season-low two points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 5:52 remaining.
Coming off consecutive road wins against Bradley and Missouri State, the Aces saw this as a chance to move into contention in the MVC. Instead, a season-high crowd of 7,015 in the Ford Center was largely silent over the last 30 minutes as Wichita State gradually choked off Evansville.
The Shockers scored on five straight possessions early in the second half to take a 43-24 lead on Carter’s short jump hook with 14:13 left. Carter added 11 rebounds for a double-double as Wichita State owned the board battle 39-26.
NOTES: Wichita State entered Saturday with a 42-9 road record since the start of the 2010-11 season. Only 57 of 351 Division I basketball programs can boast a home winning percentage equal to or better than the Shockers’ .824 away from home. … Evansville G Adam Wing (quad) returned to action after missing six games. … Wichita State averages only 64.4 possessions per game, slower than all but 38 Division I teams.
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