Key statistics: WSU made 13 of 20 shots in the first half, most coming within a few feet of the basket. In the second half, WSU cooled off, but only committed one turnover. Those efficiencies made WSU’s poor outside shooting (2 of 12 from three) irrelevant.
Records: SIU 7-11, 0-5 MVC; WSU 15-2, 5-0
How the game turned: SIU’s Anthony Beane took one shot in the first 12 minutes of the game. By the time he took his second shot, WSU led 25-11 and the game was essentially decided. Credit WSU’s Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker with removing Beane, who almost certainly needed a big game for SIU. He missed all four of his first-half shots and finished the game with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU outscored SIU 17-9 at the foul line. WSU made 70.8 percent of its free throws to raise its season mark to 66.9 percent and its MVC accuracy to 69.6 percent. WSU’s free throws are trending in the right direction.
Stat that might surprise you: SIU scored 14 points off seven WSU turnovers.
Next up: at Evansville (13-4, 3-2), 1 p.m. Saturday (FSKC)
▪ The Shockers are always a careful passing team. On Wednesday, they completed some of the prettiest passes of the season. They ran the pick and roll and Baker and Fred VanVleet both made expert bounce passes. Evan Wessel caught a pass in midair and flipped the ball to Bush Wamukota for a shot that resulted in two free throws. The Shockers looked sharp moving without the ball and finding open teammates and their totals of 17 assists on 24 baskets reflected that skill.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall liked his big men’s action on pick and rolls, which has been a long time coming.
“We’re finally getting guys to roll to the basket, finally getting guys to roll hard to the basket,” he said. “Fred VanVleet is going to find you. Ron Baker is going to find you. Tekele Cotton is going to find you, if you do your job.”
▪ Southern Illinois out-rebounded WSU 34-30, which some cases might be cause for concern. Salukis coach Barry Hinson dismissed that stat on a night when his team missed 34 shots.
“I don’t think we fought very good at all,” Hinson said. “Let me explain this rebounding deal. When you hold a team to 35 percent (shooting), that’s a lot of missed shots. So that stat is very skewed. That’s a bad, skewed stat.”
▪ WSU is 5-0 in the MVC and it needs to be 5-0. It has played one opponent with a winning record in conference play (Loyola) and faces its second on Saturday. After that it faces two more teams in the bottom half, Missouri State and Drake.
WSU’s five MVC opponents are 6-19 in conference play.
Starting Jan. 28, six of WSU’s final nine games are against teams with winning records, and that doesn’t count a trip to Illinois State, which appears to be a dangerous and unlucky 2-3.
▪ Beane scored 25 points at Koch Arena last season, part of an impressive run that saw him score 20-plus eight times in SIU’s final 12 games. He earned second-team All-MVC honors and established himself as a rising star. He still is, but this season is difficult for Beane. He went 0 for 4 from three-point range against WSU and is 19 of 78 on the season and 1 for 25 from three-point range. Last season, he made 52 of 132 (39.4 percent) and 33 of 81 (40.7 percent) in 18 MVC games.
“It’s completely a mental issue,” Hinson said. “Anthony Beane’s going to have to make a three sometime in the new year. You cannot shoot the ball any worse.”
Cotton spent most of his time making sure Beane didn’t break out against the Shockers.
“The thing Tekele does, better than anybody in our league, is that he disrupts,” Hinson said. “There’s no rhythm. He reminds me of a Southern Baptist at a dance contest. There’s just no rhythm at all. That’s pretty good when you can be that one person and disrupt another team.”
▪ WSU committed one second-half turnover for the second straight game and fewer than 10 for the eighth time this season.