WICHITA, Kan. – Making just his third start overall, and first since Wichita State earned a top-25 ranking, Cleanthony Early was focused on not rushing things.
"When I slow down," Early said, "I can normally find my groove."
Early and the Shockers found it quickly en route to an 80-54 victory over Northern Colorado on Saturday night. Early scored nine of his team-high 16 points in 14-2 run to open the game.
"They just execute their offense so well," Bears coach B.J. Hill said.
Nick Wiggins had 14 points, Demetric Williams added 12 and Malcolm Armstead 11 as the Shockers (9-0) had four score in double figures for the first time this season.
Derrick Barden scored 19 points for Northern Colorado (1-6), while Emmanuel Ado added 11.
Wichita State played without two injured starters — center Ehimen Orupke and guard Evan Wessel — but still matched the best start in school history. All 10 Shockers who played logged between 18 and 22 minutes.
"We've talked about building depth around here for years," coach Gregg Marshall said. "You do that so when you have a guy, or two, go down, you have options."
After Early led Wichita State to the 14-2 lead, fellow junior-college transfer Chadrick Lufile scored six straight Shockers points — matching his season high — to push the lead to 20-5 with 12:46 to play in the half.
Northern Colorado pulled to 23-13 after consecutive layups by Barden with 10:17 remaining in the half.
The Bears, though, did not score again for nearly six minutes. Williams and Armstead hit 3-pointers to help the Shockers take advantage of Northern Colorado's drought and built the lead to 33-13. Wiggins, another Wichita State junior college transfer, hit a 3 that put the Shockers up 38-19 at halftime.
"It started being automatic in my brain," Wiggins said. "When we had someone drive, the side and corner 3s were wide open."
Bears opponents had been shooting just 32 percent from the 3-point line this season. Wichita State was 12 of 24.
"When you have bigger, stronger, more athletic guys driving the lane, it's going to force help," Hill said. "We knew that, and we knew we could live with them taking corner threes. They just knocked them down."
Northern Colorado did cause Wichita State a little consternation in the second half. Shockers turnovers fueled the Bears' 6-0 run and convinced Marshall to bench all five starters.
"The sloppiest couple of minutes we've had all year," Marshall said. "Just turnover after turnover after turnover. I'd seen enough of that group."
The Shockers' reserves steadied things, as a 3 by Wiggins and two short jumpers from Tekele Cotton gave Wichita State a 47-27 lead with 16:11 remaining. Northern Colorado did not get closer than 17 after that as Wichita State shot 56 percent from the floor.
With the victory in hand, Wichita State could turn its attention to a game Thursday at Tennessee.
"We knew 9-0 was the best start here," Marshall said. "We played good in spurts. But to be 10-0, we'll have to play a lot better than we did in the second half."