Saturday’s box score
No. 4 WSU 81, Evansville 67
Percentages: FG .481, FT .556. 3-Point Goals: 5-11, .455 (Balentine 3-6, Wing 1-1, Simmons 1-3, Ptacek 0-1). Team Rebounds: 7. Blocked Shots: 3 (Howard 2, Balentine). Turnovers: 11 (Gibson 4, Wing 2, Brown, Ptacek, Balentine, Mockevicius). Steals: 8 (Moore 2, Howard 2, Simmons, Brown, Gibson, Wing). Technical Fouls: None.
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Percentages: FG .455, FT .727. 3-Point Goals: 7-19, .368 (Cotton 2-2, Wiggins 2-2, Early 2-5, Baker 1-8, VanVleet 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 5 (Coleby 2, Lufile 2, Baker). Turnovers: 11 (VanVleet 3, Baker 2, Simon, Early, Lufile, Wessel, Cotton, Bush). Steals: 7 (VanVleet 2, Baker 2, Carter, Cotton, Early). Technical Fouls: None.
A—10,506. Officials—John Moore, Ed Crenshaw, Tim Fitzgerald.
Shocker state of mind
Three of Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early’s best friends made their first trip to Wichita this weekend to watch Early play against Evansville.
Kyni Scott, Patrick Chellel and Derrick Jean – all from Early’s hometown of Middletown, N.Y. – flew in Friday to watch the game and sat behind the Shocker bench. Scott was sporting a unique collector’s item – Early’s No. 11 jersey from Sullivan (N.Y.) County Community College.
All three had on Shocker gear in some form – Chellel a T-shirt while Scott and Jean sported WSU stocking caps.
“We’ve been friends with him for about 10 years, he’s like our family,” Chellel said. “I was in Los Angeles for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight last year, and all of us went to Atlanta for the Final Four.
“(Koch Arena) is crazy. So loud and the fans are great. We love it.”
Keep him off the line
Evansville guard D.J. Balentine scored 26 points, three above his Missouri Valley Conference-leading average. He made 11 of 21 shots, a good shooting performance by almost any standard.
The Shockers, however, didn’t seem concerned about their defensive effort on him. They kept him off the line, which kept a 26-point game from turning into something worse. Balentine, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, entered the game averaging seven points a game from free throws. He was 157 of 179 (87.7 percent) before Saturday.
WSU chased him, put a hand in his face and contested shots. The Shockers rarely fouled him. He made one of two free throws.
“We didn’t allow him to get the free-throw line,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “That was a huge key.”
The Aces went 10 for 18 from the line after shooting 30 or more free throws in their two previous games.
More TV on the way
Wichita State is a safe bet to grab one of the televised spots on March 1 when it plays Missouri State at Koch Arena. The MVC reserves two time slots each season for the final regular-season games and selects the best.
This season, both games are on the ESPN family, with none on Fox Sports regional outlets. A game on ESPNU tips at noon. A game on either ESPN or ESPN2 starts at 3 p.m.
The games (Northern Iowa at Indiana State also looks attractive) will be announced Friday. MVC associate commissioner Jack Watkins expects ESPN to wait until closer to the date to decide on the ESPN/ESPN2 option.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall started center Kadeem Coleby for the first time since Dec. 14 agains Tennessee, saying he made the move as a way to spark Coleby. He played 16 minutes and scored four points and grabbed six rebounds, his most since Nov. 16 against Tennessee State.… WSU guard Tekele Cotton made both his threes, his first game with more than one since Jan. 8 against Illinois State, when he went 2 for 3.… VanVleet committed three turnovers for the second straight game after not commiting more than two in 13 straight games.… WSU is 23-6 against the Aces in Wichita.