No. 8 Shockers handle So. Illinois in MVC opener

1/3/2014

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Fred VanVleet had 17 points, seven assists and two steals and No. 8 Wichita State remained unbeaten behind 62 percent shooting, opening Missouri Valley Conference play with an 82-67 victory over Southern Illinois on Thursday night.

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Fred VanVleet had 17 points, seven assists and two steals and No. 8 Wichita State remained unbeaten behind 62 percent shooting, opening Missouri Valley Conference play with an 82-67 victory over Southern Illinois on Thursday night.

Cleanthony Early scored 23 points for the Shockers (14-0, 1-0), the preseason conference favorites coming off a Final Four appearance. The 14-0 start is five wins better than the school's previous best and the 14-game winning streak matches the school mark set in 1953-54 under coach Ralph Miller.

Sean O'Brien and Desmar Jackson had 19 points apiece for Southern Illinois (4-10, 0-1), which upset Wichita State at home last February the week after the Shockers had been knocked out of the Top 25. Coach Barry Hinson returned after missing one game due to the death of his son-in-law on Christmas.

Nick Wiggins added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting for Wichita State.

Southern Illinois was out of it early despite 54 percent shooting. O'Brien topped his previous career best of 11 points.

Wichita State shot 59 percent to go with a 16-8 rebounding advantage and near error-free play while building a 49-32 halftime lead, committing its lone turnover with about 3 minutes to go.

The Shockers got contributions across the board with an 18-0 run over a span of 3:19 that made it 33-16 with just over 8 minutes to go. Darius Carter opened the run with consecutive baskets and the Shockers got three-point plays from Early and Van Vleet plus 3-pointers by Wiggins and Van Vleet.

Late in the half, Cotton and Early got behind the Southern Illinois defense on consecutive possessions in transition.

Former Scott City standout Ron Baker, The Telegram's 2011 Player of the Year, finished the game with six points, five assists, one steal and was just 2-of-10 shooting, both of them 3-pointerss.

The Shockers are 30-8 on the road the last three seasons, best in the nation.

WSU returns home for a 1 p.m. Sunday game against Northern Iowa at Koch Arena.

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