Second-half surge carries Shockers past Illinois State
Normal, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Redbird Arena was buzzing with anticipation as Illinois State had undefeated Wichita State on the ropes.
A second half summed up by Tekele Cotton's epic dunk, however, ended any hope of a signature upset.
Cleanthony Early made six 3-pointers and finished with 23 points as the fifth- ranked Shockers continued the best start in school history with a hard-fought 70-55 win over Illinois State on Wednesday.
Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC) trailed by three at the break, but opened the second half on an 18-5 flurry to pull away and remain one of three unbeaten teams in the country.
Early also pulled down 10 rebounds, Ron Baker chipped in 15 points and Cotton added 12 for the Shockers, who held the Redbirds to 1-of-25 shooting from behind the arc.
Daishon Knight had 12 points to lead Illinois State (11-8, 4-3), which had won seven straight at home coming in.
Illinois State led essentially the entire first half, with buckets by Zach Lofton and Bobby Hunter in the final minute giving the Redbirds a 28-25 edge at the break.
The Shockers took the air out of the building with the game-altering run, though. Early drained a 3-pointer to start things off and had eight points during the seven-minute stretch that ended in a five-point play.
Wichita State's Fred VanVleet made a layup while getting fouled, and a review of a Tony Wills elbow up high on Baker resulted in a Flagrant 1 foul. VanVleet made his bonus free throw and Baker followed with both of his, and Wichita State was suddenly ahead by a 43-33 count.
The Illinois State faithful actually did erupt in emotion a little later, but even that was for a vicious dunk by Cotton. The 6-foot-2 guard drove the baseline and soared for what seemed like an eternity. The Redbirds' John Jones, who stands 6-foot-9, attempted to meet him at the rim. Cotton, with his right arm cocked more than halfway over the rim, threw down a rim-rattling tomahawk slam, however, as Redbird Arena gasped in unison.
The highlight-reel slam yielded a 60-42 lead, and the Shockers held on over the final five minutes.
Illinois State only had five assists on 19 made field goals ... Wichita State had only two turnovers in the second half after committing 11 in the first ... The Shockers shot 11-of-27 from 3-point range ... Wichita State is next in action Saturday at Drake.
01/22 22:37:40 ET