Wichita, Kan. (Wichita State University)–Wichita State erased a nine point halftime deficit to defeat a tough Southern Illinois squad, 82-76, Wednesday night at Charles Koch Arena behind Cleanthony Early’s career-high 39 points.
Early, a junior college transfer from Middleton, N.Y., scored the first seven points of the game and 11 of the Shockers first 12 including a two-handed alley-oop dunk from Tekele Cotton. Early finished the game 13-of-19 from the field, 5-of-9 from behind the arc, and 8-of-10 at the free throw line.
Ehimen Orukpe tied a career high with 10 points and set new career highs with nine rebounds and seven blocks. Malcolm Armstead added nine points and nine assists to steady the Shocker attack.
With Wichita State (15-1, 4-0) leading 12-6, Southern Illinois fought back using a 15-7 run to take a 21-19 lead on a 3-pointer from Kendal Brown-Surles at the 11:19 mark of the first half.
Wichita State was able to knot the score, 30-30, on a 3-pointer by Early but the Salukis (7-8, 0-4) exploded on an 13-4 run to close out the half to take a 43-34 lead into the halftime break. The Saluki’s did not commit a turnover until the 3:29 mark of the half and only committed three total in the first 20 minutes.
Desmar Jackson finished the half with 15 of his 28 points on 5-of-8 shooting for SIU.
The Shockers started the second half in much the same fashion as the first scoring the first 10 points of the half including another five from Early.
The Shockers increased their lead to 10 with 7:02 remaining in the game on a pair of free throws from Early, but Southern Illinois cut the lead to two with :29 on Anthony Beane’s free throws.
Armstead connected on four straight free throws to end the Saluki’s comeback bid and the game.
Early’s 39 points are the most for a Wichita State player since Xavier McDaniel had 43 against Bradley on January 10, 1985, while Orukpe’s seven blocks were the most since Antoine Carr had seven in 1981. In addition, Early’s 39 are the fifth most in the NCAA this season.
The Shockers are next in action on Sun., Jan. 13 when they travel to Evansville for a 3:35 p.m. tipoff.