Wichita State’s win streak is in the record books, one more permanent legacy from the run of success that started in 2011 with the NIT title, peaked in the 2013 Final Four and made history with a 35-game win streak last season.
No. 13 Wichita State handled Southern Illinois 67-55 on Wednesday at Koch Arena to win its 23rd straight regular-season Missouri Valley Conference game. It is considered the modern-era record, passing Southern Illinois (2003-04), Cincinnati (1957-59) and Oklahoma State (1947-49), all of whom won 22. SIU is the only one still in the MVC, so it was fitting the Salukis watched without much protest as WSU surpassed their mark.
The Shockers didn’t make much fuss over the record, either.
“That’s a pretty cool accomplishment,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “I didn’t know that. Coach didn’t mention that to us. Just another Valley game.”
Other than the streak, it was in most ways. WSU (15-2, 5-0 MVC) led the entire game and SIU didn’t get closer than 11 points in the second half. The Shockers kept pace with Indiana State atop the MVC standings. SIU (7-11, 0-5) lost its seventh straight game.
WSU’s Darius Carter scored a career-high 25 points and the Shockers put on a passing and cutting clinic to outscored SIU 32-18 in the paint. Carter made 11 of 15 shots before a collision with SIU’s K.C. Goodwin knocked him to the floor and ended his night late in the game. Coach Gregg Marshall did not seem overly concerned about Carter’s availability for Saturday’s game at Evansville. Carter did not come to the interview room after the game.
“His eye is a little scratched and swollen, but hopefully he’ll be fine for Saturday,” Marshall said. “He was tremendous. We always want to play through him as much as we can. He made great moves and was finishing closer than he caught it.”
SIU chose not to give its big men help guarding Carter in an attempt to keep Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton from firing away from outside. Carter took the one-on-one matchups and scored on dunks, layups and hooks.
“It really helps when you’re surrounded by shooters," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “You have to make a choice. You have to decide who’s going to beat you and who’s not. It’s really hard to help on him.”
WSU’s guards quickly recognized the situation and let Carter go to work on post-ups and pick-and-rolls. He made 7 of 10 shots in the first half and scored 17 points. He passed his previous high of 19 points early in the second half.
“It definitely puts the defenders guarding the perimeter in a pretty difficult situation,” Baker said. “A lot of our sets early were to get the ball inside. He made some nice moves down there.”
The Shockers made 13 of of 20 shots in the first half to build a 38-22 lead. SIU, held under 57 points in all of its MVC games, continued to struggle to score. It made 8 of 26 shots in the first half and committed eight turnovers.
Cotton held Anthony Beane, SIU’s leading scorer, without a basket in the first half. Beane, who entered the game averaging 16.5 points, finished with 10.
“He shuts Beane out, and that’s a yeoman’s chore,” Marshall said. “Tekele’s defense was dynamite for the better part of the game.”
Baker added 11 points for WSU and Cotton scored 10, nine in the first half. WSU made 24 of 48 shots and 17 of 24 foul shots. Neither team shot well behind the arc — WSU 2 of 12 of and SIU 2 of 9.
Deion Lavender led SIU with 15 points. Bola Olaniyan added 12 and 10 rebounds.
The Shockers don’t win 23 straight MVC games by playing down to their opponent. They continued that consistency of focus on Wednesday by hitting SIU hard after the tip.
WSU ran out to a 9-0 lead with Cotton scoring four of the points. A dunk by Carter forced an SIU timeout. The Salukis didn’t score until 15:53 remained in the first half and that barely slowed the Shockers. They led 16-4 on Cotton’s three and 23-8 after back-to-back baskets by Carter.
The Shockers lost their momentum when a stream of reserves entered. Four consecutive turnovers helped SIU produce a 9-2 run that cut WSU’s lead to 29-20.
With reluctance, Marshall returned most of his starters and they restored order. WSU closed the half on a 9-2 run to go up 38-22. SIU committed eight turnovers and scored eight baskets in the first half. The Shockers made 13 of 20 shots (65 percent) in the first half and outscored SIU 16-8 in the lane.
Beane opened the second half with a basket to start SIU’s best stretch, a 13-8 run that cut WSU’s lead to 46-35. The Salukis never got any closer. Sometimes WSU’s reserves made the plays. Sometimes Marshall went to his veterans to maintain the lead.
The Shockers always had plenty in reserve. Winning 23 in a row doesn’t mean there are no more goals to accomplish. Kansas won 34 straight MVC games from 1922-24 and Nebraska won 29 from 1912-15.