WICHITA, Kan. — No. 4 Wichita State heads into its most challenging week of the conference schedule following an 81-67 victory over Evansville on Saturday at Koch Arena.
The Shockers (23-0, 10-0 MVC) play at second-place Indiana State on Wednesday and at Northern Iowa on Saturday. Those stops figure to be the biggest obstacles to the MVC title and an undefeated season.
Evansville (10-13, 3-7) starts two freshmen and three sophomores. While spectacular sophomore guard D.J. Balentine gave the Shockers problems with his scoring, the Aces lack the size and experience to push hard.
Guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet led WSU with 14 points each. Forward Cleanthony Early added 13 and eight rebounds.
Balentine made 11 of 21 shots to score 26 points, the only Evansville player in double figures.
WSU outscored the Aces 24-10 at the line and out-rebounded them 40-29.
Evansville, which beat WSU twice last season, came out strong. It didn’t last.
The Aces made their first eight shots, three behind the arc, to take a 21-8 lead. Balentine, running off the maze of screens in a motion offense, got loose for 10 points. He missed Evansville’s first shot with 11:26 to play in the first half.
The good times ended soon after for the Aces. Forward Blake Simmons’ jumper gave them a 29-14 lead with 8:46 remaining.
Evansville’s next possession ended when Baker stole a pass and scored to start an 11-0 run. The Aces failed to handle WSU’s press and the Shockers turned bad passes and hurried shots into baskets. Two free throws by VanVleet cut Evansville’s lead to 29-25 with 4:30 remaining.
The Aces ended their drought with a follow shot by forward David Howard with 4:12 remaining.
The Shockers kept coming. They took a 35-33 lead on Early’s 3-pointer. A dunk by forward Darius Carter, on a fast break after missed shot, gave WSU a 37-33 lead. Early ended the first-half scoring with two free throws for a 39-33 edge at halftime.
After starting 5 for 17 from the field, WSU made six of its final 11 shots. It made up much ground at the line by making 15 of 21 foul shots. The Aces ended the half with two starters with three fouls and three with two. They made all four of their foul shots.
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