WICHITA, Kan. — The Southern Illinois Salukis are a different team than the one the Wichita State Shockers faced to open Missouri Valley Conference play.
Not quite good enough to handle the fourth-ranked Shockers, but good enough to make a game quite stressful. Wichita State held off SIU 78-67 on Tuesday at Koch Arena by pulling away late in the game.
“They’re going to be a tough team in the (conference) tournament, for sure,” Wichita State guard Ron Baker said. “They obviously executed a little better. They were playing kids that didn’t even play in January.”
The Shockers remained one of the nation’s two unbeaten teams and improved to 26-0, 13-0 in the MVC despite an underwhelming performance. SIU (10-16, 6-7) ended a four-game winning streak, while earning a ton of respect. The team that WSU handled 82-67 on Jan. 2 at SIU Arena is no more.
“That was not our best effort,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They had a great game-plan. They packed it in and we didn’t make any shots. We didn’t rebound great. We were sloppy with the basketball.”
The Shockers, ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, survived largely by outscoring SIU by 10 points at the foul line. They made 24 of 32 free throws; SIU made 14 of 24. The Shockers, after going 2 for 14 from three-point range in the first half, made 6 of 13 in the second half.
Baker led WSU with 19 points, 13 in the second half. Forward Cleanthony Early added 18, making 11 of 12 free throws.
Sophomore guard Anthony Beane led SIU with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting. SIU made 5 of 11 threes and shot 47.1 percent from the floor. Beane played 34 minutes in the first meeting and didn’t score. Since moving to point guard, he is averaging more than 20 points a game and the Shockers couldn’t guard him.
He played 39 minutes and with foul trouble limiting several Salukis, didn’t get enough help. Guard Desmar Jackson, who averages 19.7 points, scored 13 and played 28 minutes before fouling out.
“We ran out of gas,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “We got three starters in foul trouble. It hurt us.”
The Shockers found their shooting touch late in the game. SIU helped with careless turnovers that gave the Shockers open shots and got the crowd of 10,506 roaring.
WSU led 64-61 with 4:20 to play after guard Nick Wiggins’ three-pointer. That started a 12-3 run that finished off the Salukis. Baker’s three made it 72-64 and he followed that with two foul shots, after an SIU turnover, for a 10-point lead.
They made shots and that crowd just went nuts,” Hinson said. “They hit big shots because the momentum was there from the crowd.”
The Shockers took a 57-48 lead in the second half with a 16-7 run. After struggling most of the game from 3-point range, the home team warmed up. Baker made his first in six tries for a 49-44 lead. Early’s 3-pointer made it 52-46. Baker found guard Tekele Cotton for a three-point play, and forward Darius Carter’s hook shot gave the Shockers a 57-48 lead.
The Salukis did not cave, no matter the noise and the pressure from Wichita State. Even without a post game, they found ways to score. Jalen Pendleton, a 6-foot-1 forward, drew fouls and scored in the lane against bigger players.
Beane carried the Salukis to a 21-19 lead despite being guarded by Cotton, Wichita State’s top defender. He made five of his first seven shots, one from 3-point range, to score 11 points before halftime.
The Salukis led most of the first half and did not allow the Shockers to go on long runs or get the crowd roaring. Southern Illinois’ zone defense kept the Shockers on the perimeter, and Wichita State shot poorly from outside. The Salukis limited them to one shot most trips and didn’t allow Wichita State’s size to dominate.
After tying the score twice, the Shockers took a 26-25 lead on a free throw by forward Nick Wiggins. The Shockers failed to keep that run going and Southern Illinois went up 29-26 on a three by guard Tyler Smithpeters. Wichita State forward Derail Green followed in a miss to cut the lead to one. Beane responded
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