No. 20 Wichita State beats Missouri State 62-52
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP)
Gavin Thurman suffered through such a bad shooting slump earlier this season that he got benched for an entire game.
Cleanthony Early scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Carl Hall added 15 points as No. 20 Wichita State calmly rallied from a second-half deficit to shuck aside Missouri State 62-52 in front of 6,448 at JQH Arena.
The Shockers trailed 33-25 at the 16:13 mark of the second half. That was because Thurman scored 16 of his career-high 21 points over a stretch that covered both halves, part of a 19-1 run.
However, Early and Hall got more active in the offense, and Wichita State built on its recent upset of then-No. 12 Creighton, whose 74-69 loss to Drake on Wednesday night did not go unnoticed.
It allowed the Shockers (18-2, 7-1) to take sole possession of first place in the conference.
''I was playing off my energy. That was pretty much all I was doing,'' said Thurman, who was benched in a Dec. 5 loss at Tulsa after he fell into a 5-for-34 shooting slump. ''I was trying to make that run last as long as possible.''
Missouri State coach Paul Lusk limited his praise.
''He had a good game, but the Bears lost,'' Lusk said. ''I don't know how much that matters.''
Early and Hall sparked the Shockers after they came away empty on their first five possessions of the second half. The duo led a 16-2 run in which Wichita State built a 41-35 advantage.
Early and Hall accounted 14 of the points, with Nick Wiggins' 3-pointer punctuating the rally.
Early, a transfer a Sullivan, N.Y. juco, was key on quieting Thurman.
''I was playing off him a little bit, letting him get the ball,'' Early said. In the second half, ''I just tried to deny him the ball and be a little more physical.''
It was the ninth win in 10 games for the Shockers, who were expected to go through a rebuilding season after winning the conference regular-season title a year ago.
But the Shockers won yet again without two injured starters, Ron Baker (foot) and Evan Wessel (hand). It was Hall's third game back since he missed seven games because of a broken thumb on his shooting hand.
They also won despite their fourth-lowest point total of the season.
''We weren't going very strongly (in the first half). It didn't remind me of the guys I had seen on Saturday,'' Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. ''But in the second half, they changed that.''
Marshall challenged the Shockers, who entered leading the conference in scoring defense (60.1 points) and field-goal defense (39.5 percent).
''There's going to be some physical play and there's going to be some holds and some grabs and some body-slamming in the Valley,'' Marshall added. ''They've got to know that. That's what I told Cleanthony - I said, you're the new guy. This is the way we play, so you've got to adjust.''
It was the fourth consecutive loss for Missouri State (5-15, 3-5), which was coming off a bitter, 69-66 road loss to Illinois State. The Redbirds hit a buzzer-beating, 3-pointer on the run and 30 feet away.
Anthony Downing added 14 points for the Bears, who made only 19 of 58 field goals (32.8 percent).
Missouri State trailed by 12 points with about 5:15 left before halftime, but rode Thurman over the game's next nine minutes to reverse the deficit and take 33-25 advantage.
''Although we did a good job on them defensively, things come easily for them,'' Lusk said. ''They can just literally walk down the floor and pound it inside. Obviously, we don't have that luxury.''