EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Wichita State became the 21st team in Division I history to open a season 27-0 on Sunday, but not without some anxiety.
Guard Ron Baker scored 15 of his team-high 26 points in the first half and the No. 4 Shockers held off a second-half charge by Evansville for an 84-68 Missouri Valley Conference win at the Ford Center.
Point guard Fred VanVleet added 18 points, eight assists and five steals for Wichita State, which improved to 14-0 in the conference and kept pace with Syracuse as the only unbeaten teams in Division I. Forward Cleanthony Early contributed 13 points and guard Tekele Cotton kicked in 12.
Guard D.J. Balentine, tied for sixth in Division I in scoring at 23.2 points per game, scored 19 for the Purple Aces (11-16, 4-10) but made only 5-of-17 field-goal attempts. Center Egidijus Mockevicius made all seven of his field-goal attempts and compiled a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Forward Blake Simmons, the son of Evansville coach Marty Simmons, added 12 points. The Aces canned 51 percent of their field goal attempts but hurt themselves with turnovers, committing 17.
The Shockers made Evansville pay for most of its mistakes, collecting 23 points off turnovers.
Wichita State took a 38-32 lead into halftime and expanded it to 49-35 by the second half’s first TV timeout, helped by eight straight points from VanVleet and Early.
The 6-foot-10 Mockevicius carried the Aces back into contention with 10 consecutive points in a span of 2:17 seconds, cutting the deficit to 57-49 with 11:58 remaining. His bank shot with 6:09 left made it 65-60.
But Cotton drove for a layup with 4:42 remaining, starting a stretch that saw the Shockers score on eight of their last nine possessions to finally put Evansville away.
NOTES: Wichita State is the highest-ranked team to ever play in Evansville. DePaul was ranked fifth when it visited old Roberts Stadium on Feb. 9, 1981. … With G Ron Baker in the starting lineup, the Shockers have been almost unbeatable. They are 39-2, dating back to last year, with Baker as a starter. … The Purple Aces are the fourth-youngest team in Division I, starting two freshmen and three sophomores.
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