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(Thursday, January 2nd)
Final Score: (8) Wichita State 82, Southern Illinois 67
Carbondale, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Cleanthony Early scored a game-high 23 points to help lead eighth-ranked Wichita State to an 82-67 win over Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams.
"Like Coach says, it's easy to get a good look every time when you're setting yourself up," Early said.
Fred VanVleet had 17 points and a game-high seven assists, while Nick Wiggins added 13 for the Shockers (14-0, 1-0), whose perfect start tied the best winning streak in school history dating back to the 1953-54 season.
Sean O'Brien and Desmar Jackson each tallied 19 points for the Salukis (4-10, 0-1), who have lost two straight.
"We didn't play inspired, we were flat, we were paralyzed with fear," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson.
VanVleet nailed a triple with 8:15 to go in the first half to cap off a 20-6 run for Wichita State, and Early's slam with 4:02 left pushed the cushion to 20 for the Shockers, who took a 49-32 lead into the break.
Early scored five points in the first three minutes of the second half to give Wichita State its biggest advantage at 22. The Salukis pulled within 15 on O'Brien's jumper with 3:49 left to play, but they wouldn't get much closer than that.
Both teams shot extremely well from the field with the Shockers shooting 60 percent (30-for-50) and the Salukis' just below that with 54.1 percent (20- for-37).
Wichita State hosts Northern Iowa on Saturday ... Southern Illinois plays at Illinois State on Sunday ... SIU owns a 48-39 lead in the all-time series with WSU ... SIU hasn't beaten a Top-10 team since defeating then-No. 2 Louisville on Jan. 11, 1967 ... Wichita State is the highest-ranked team to visit SIU Arena since Larry Bird's then-No. 2 Indiana State team beat the Salukis, 69-68, on Feb. 15, 1979.
01/03 00:56:21 ET
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