Wichita, KS – Cleanthony Early posted a game-high 39 points to go with six rebounds as the No. 23 Wichita State Shockers bested Southern Illinois, 82-76, at Koch Arena.
Ehimen Orukpe added 10 points and nine boards for the Shockers (15-1, 4-0 MVC), who have won six in a row.
Desmar Jackson poured in 28 points and Anthony Beane contributed 14 for the Salukis (7-8, 0-4), who have dropped five straight.
Down by nine at the half, Wichita State slowly asserted itself in the second 20 minutes.
It scored nine in a row to start, tying the game on an Early layup, then after falling behind 50-49 on two free throws from Josh Swan, embarked on a game- deciding 14-5 run.
Orukpe's slam put the Shockers up 52-50 and Early followed with a triple which was followed by an Orukpe tip-in. The Salukis' only answer was two more free throws by Swan and a trey from Beane to pull the visitors within 57-55, but Tekele Cotton answered immediately for the hosts and Early added a basket before Cotton closed out the surge with 9;49 to play at 63-55.
Wichita State's lead stretched to double digits on two makes from the charity stripe by Early with just over seven minutes remaining, and though Southern Illinois remained close, it never threatened to take the lead.
Beane's two from the line made it 78-76 with 29 seconds to play, but Malcolm Armstead made four straight free throws to seal it.
"When you get backed up into a corner, you want your guys to respond, and I think they did tonight," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "I told them that's the Salukis I played against for nine years (at Missouri State). That's the team that we have to have."
Early scored the first seven points of the contest and totaled nine of the first 10 for the Shockers, who led 10-4 less than 2 1/2 minutes in.
Southern Illinois led for the first time by a 23-21 count after Kendal Brown- Surles connected from long distance, and eventually pushed its advantage to 41-30 on a three-point play from Jeff Early with 4:17 left in the half.
The visitors took a 43-34 edge to the break.
"They made tough shots and it seemed like everything they shot in the first half went in," Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall said. "Part of it was our defensive mindset wasn't where it was supposed to be and part of it is on me."
Wichita State shot 52 percent (27-of-52) from the field and posted 11 blocked shots thanks to Orukpe's seven swats ... Southern Illinois shot 40 percent in the second half and just 47.4 percent (27-of-57) from the floor ... Jeff Early tallied 13 points and five rebounds in defeat.