Feb. 11, 2014By Tom Weber
WICHITA, Kan. - Wichita State remained perfect on the season with a 78-67 win over Southern Illinois on Tuesday night at sold-out Charles Koch Arena, but there was absolutely nothing easy about the victory.
The Salukis (10-16, 6-7) held a lead early in the second half and were as close as three points, 64-61, with 4:20 remaining. The No. 4-ranked Shockers (26-0, 13-0) finally put the game away with a 14-6 run in the last four minutes of the contest.
Twenty-seven of Wichita's 49 shots in the game were from 3-point range, and the treys didn't start falling until late. Nick Wiggins hit a momentum-changing 3-pointer with 3:48 to go that put his team up six, and Ron Baker stroked another one at the 2:14 mark that sent Shocker fans into a frenzy.
"We just survived," said Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. "It was not our best effort, obviously, but give (SIU) a lot of credit for that -- they had a great game plan."
Southern played toe-to-toe with the Shockers throughout the first half and led, 32-31, at halftime. The Salukis packed into a 2-3 zone and forced Wichita into 2-for-14 shooting from 3-point range in the half.
The hottest player in the Missouri Valley Conference, Anthony Beane, was feeling it once again. He had 14 of his 25 points in the first half. His arsenal included 3-point shots, tear-drop floaters and rim-rattling dunks.
"He's a focal point (of the defense) and he's still doing it," SIU head coach Barry Hinson marveled. "He literally just carried us."
Beane topped the 20-point mark for the fifth-straight game, a feat no Saluki has accomplished since Troy Hudson in 1997.
Although Wichita State won by 15 points in Carbondale on Jan. 2, Marshall didn't think his team overlooked Southern Illinois this time around.
"We kept telling (our players) they're a well-coached team, they've won four in a row," Marshall said. "Beane is playing out of his mind along with (Desmar) Jackson now."
Foul trouble was a serious problem for Southern. Jackson, who finished with 13 points, fouled out of the game with 2:55 remaining. Three other starters had four fouls.
"We ran out of gas," said Hinson. "I'm looking for a filling station and we've got nothing."
The Shockers took their largest lead of the game -- 12 points -- on a driving layup by Fred VanVleet with 1:29 to go. The noise was deafening.
"I thought the crowd won the game the second half," Hinson said. "They hit big shots because the momentum was there from the crowd."
Five players scored in double figures for Wichita State, led by Baker's 19 points and 18 from Cleanthony Early. As a unit, they recovered from a poor first half of shooting to make 6-of-13 shots from 3-point in the second half.
"This team just finds a way," Marshall said. "You're not going to play the perfect game 26 times."
Hinson said Wichita State played loose in the second half, despite the stress of trying to maintain a perfect record.
"I don't see them feeling pressure, I think they're having fun," he said. "I didn't think they could go undefeated in the league, and I said that out of no disrespect for them but out of respect for our league."
Southern's free-throw shooting woes flared up again, as the team converted only 14-of-24. Jalen Pendleton, who scored 13 points, had half of the team's 10 misses.
SIU had its four-game winning streak snapped, but it is still very much in the mix to finish with a top-six seed for the conference tournament -- something it hasn't had since 2009.
"We don't want to play on Thursday night," Hinson said. "We're tired of being everybody's Homecoming game. We'd like to play on Friday night. That's our goal."