EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) Wichita State senior Tekele Cotton has produced his share of highlight-reel dunks. On Saturday, Cotton showed he also has the endurance of a distance runner.
Cotton and the No. 13 Shockers forced Evansville into its worst offensive game of the season in a 61-41 Wichita State victory.
”Tekele Cotton – he runs a half-marathon today chasing D.J. Balentine off hundreds of screens,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. ”He keeps him to 16 points, which is a little under his average, but it takes him 17 shots to get there.”
Indeed, Balentine finished 6 of 17 and scored 16 points. Evansville’s junior shooting guard entered the contest averaging 20.5 points per game, the most in the Missouri Valley Conference.
”You just got to get ready mentally and really zone in on what they do offensively,” Cotton said. ”It’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
Ron Baker and Darius Carter tallied 18 points apiece to lead the Shockers (16-2, 6-0 Missouri Valley).
But it was Wichita State’s defense that led to the easy win.
Evansville (13-5, 3-3) finished with its season-low point total and shot a season-low 30 percent from the field. The Aces entered the day shooting 51 percent and scoring an MVC-best 74.6 points per game.
”At times, we got good looks but seemed to be more concerned about getting hit than finishing the basket,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. ”They do about as good a job as anybody we’ll play at challenging shots.”
The Shockers held Evansville without a point for more than nine minutes late in the first half. Five different Wichita State players combined for 10 points during that stretch, helping the Shockers take a 28-18 halftime lead.
Carter, Baker and Shaquille Morris (nine points) helped carry the Wichita State offense despite preseason All-American point guard Fred VanVleet playing only 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
Baker drew a foul on a 3-point attempt and hit each free throw to jump start a 7-0 run that gave the Shockers a 43-24 lead with 14:13 left. Evansville never got closer than 14 the rest of the way.
Evansville’s Egidijus Mockevicius, who entered the contest with nine straight double-doubles, didn’t score until he flipped in a left-handed hook shot with 15:55 remaining. Mockevicius finished with two points, eight rebounds and four blocks before fouling out with 5:52 remaining.
”I thought our guys were ready to play,” Marshall said. ”To hold that team – a very talented offensive team – to 41 points is a testament to how well we played.”
Wichita State: The Shockers won their 24th consecutive Missouri Valley Conference game. Wichita State has won 12 straight MVC road games.
Evansville: Junior Adam Wing returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the previous six games with a strained quadriceps muscle. Wing, who started the first 11 games of the season, played 16 minutes off the bench.
ON THE RISE
Carter continued his strong recent play with 18 points and 11 rebounds. WSU’s 6-foot-7 senior scored a career-high 25 points in Wednesday’s win over Southern Illinois and had 19 in a Jan. 7 victory against Bradley.
Wichita State improved its road record to 43-9 since the 2010-11 season, the best mark in the nation over that span.
Wichita State visits Missouri State on Wednesday.
Evansville travels to Loyola (Chicago) on Wednesday.