Key statistics: Wichita State made 28 of 48 shots (58.3 percent) for its best shooting night since it made 31 of 52 (59.6 percent) in a 90-72 win over DePaul last season. WSU’s starters combined to make 16 of 27 shots and all nine of their free throws.
Records: WSU 24-3, 14-1 MVC; SIU 10-18, 3-12
How the game turned: WSU’s Ron Baker scored five straight points to boost WSU’s lead to 13 points late in the first half. Then he made a savvy read on defense to help on a pass to SIU’s Sean O’Brien, who would have been open in the lane. Instead, Baker stole the pass and pushed the ball to Tekele Cotton for one of his Euro-stepish layups and 41-26 lead.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: SIU will play on Thursday in the MVC Tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons. That’s a killer for the Salukis and their fans. It is also a problem for the tournament, which benefits from SIU fans filling the arena when the Salukis are good.
Stat that might surprise you: SIU outscored the Shockers 16-2 on second-chance points.
Next up: vs. Evansville (19-8, 9-6), 3 p.m., Sunday (ESPNU)
▪ WSU’s Darius Carter played 20 minutes and scored six points, all in the game’s first eight minutes. Those modest numbers fall short of explaining his contribution. It’s more telling to say Carter averaged 15.2 points and made 14 of 20 shots in two games against SIU.
He scored a career-high 25 in the first meeting and that performance dictated much of the rematch. SIU set its defense to guard Carter and gave WSU’s shooters room. Carter scored four of WSU’s first seven points. When he got the ball a third time, a Saluki left Fred VanVleet open and Carter passed to him for a jump shot.
“We had gotten our butts whipped so bad on the interior by Carter the first time we played them, we tried not to let that happen again,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “We gave up some threes.”
WSU went 10 of 19 from behind the arc (52.6 percent), its best since making 9 of 17 (52.9) at Drake.
SIU threw some zone at WSU and the Shockers seemed to make a three every time the Salukis made that switch.
▪ The Shockers scored 21 points off 10 SIU turnovers, which is about as efficient as one can expect. Hinson was thrilled to commit only 10 turnovers. WSU made every one of them sting, often taking advantage of an unorganized SIU defense by speeding toward the rim for open shots.
“Good guards,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They know where to go with the ball. Fred (VanVleet) taking it to the rack. Baker made a couple of beautiful passes in transition. Once we get a defensive rebound, or a steal, we really look to push.”
Tekele Cotton finished with five assists. Baker and VanVleet both had four.
▪ SIU tried to back-cut the Shockers time and time again. I don’t remember it working.
“When they entered the ball, they were looking for backdoors and we were sitting on them all night,” Baker said. “We did a good job getting the scouting report into the game.”
▪ Hinson was pleased with his team’s hustle. In the early minutes of the game, SIU forced turnovers, grabbed loose balls and out-rebounded WSU. It wasn’t enough to overcome WSU’s many advantages, especially when the hustle plays evened out in the second half.
“We were the first to get on the floor,” Hinson said. “That’s a big deal for us.”
▪ I probably write too much about winning at SIU Arena, because that place made a big impression on me during my early days on the beat. WSU’s frustration seemed to be focused on its 17-game losing streak at Creighton. But the 11-game skid at SIU Arena seemed more imposing.
WSU had chances to win in Omaha. At SIU Arena, it seemed as if the Salukis dominated every game and gave the Shockers no hope with their physical, suffocating defense. It’s quite a difference now.
▪ VanVleet is creeping up on Toure Murry’s career record for assists (430). VanVleet has 426, three behind second-place Warren Armstrong. VanVleet’s two steals give him 153 for his career, tied with Jamar Howard in third. Murry (180) is second and Jason Perez (222) is first.
Cotton scored 10 points to give him 966 for his career. He is seventh with 142 steals, six behind Aubrey Sherrod and P.J. Couisnard in sixth on WSU’s career list.
Baker made two threes, giving him 66 this season, and pushing past Randy Burns and Sean Ogirri into a tie for sixth with Cleathony Early, Terrell Benton and Clevin Hannah. Baker needs four to pass Maurice Evans and move into third behind David Kyles (75) and Ogirri (91).