WICHITA, Kan. – With six newcomers, five of them freshmen, coming off his bench, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was prepared for some inconsistency in the season opener.
Cruising to a 71-54 victory over New Mexico State Friday night was anything but inconsistent for the No. 11 Shockers.
"I will take a 17-point win over that team anytime, anywhere," Marshall said. "We weren't great, but I thought we were pretty good."
Tekele Cotton scored 17 points and Ron Baker added 16 for the Shockers (1-0), who did not need a lot of offense. The Aggies (0-1) had only 40 field goal attempts, 23 fewer than Wichita State.
Daniel Mullings scored 14 points to lead New Mexico State, which was hampered by 20 turnovers.
"Some of those turnovers were us, careless dribbling and such, but a lot of them were forced," Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. "It's about the physicality of their defense. It's something we will show our guys. That's how we want to play."
Wichita State led by 17 at halftime and was never threatened after that.
A tip-in by Darius Carter pushed the Shockers' lead to 21, 44-23, with 16:41 to play. The Aggies did not get the deficit below 19 again until the final two minutes.
Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet, who had seven steals, said forcing turnovers was a key to the game plan.
"We saw some plays where we might have a few opportunities," VanVleet said. "The main thing is we knew the big they have, and we didn't want to let them just bang it in there and bang it in there. So we needed to extend."
Two veterans took care of the Shockers' offense. Cotton scored eight points in a 10-3 run that pushed Wichita State's lead to 24-12 with 7:30 remaining in the half.
Baker dropped in a floater that made it 34-17 Shockers and sank a fade-away 18-footer to give Wichita State a 38-21 halftime lead.
The Aggies, a nearly unanimous choice to win the Western Athletic Conference, averaged more than 53 shot attempts and 77 points last season. So to keep them from making any kind of charge at all after halftime pleased Marshall.
"Our guards did a good job with ball pressure and getting digs into the post," Marshall said. "But they're every bit as big and athletic as us, so our young post players did a pretty good job."
One of those was Shaquille Morris, who scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in 12 minutes.
"Shaq gave us a lift tonight," Marshall said.
Wichita State: The Shockers unveiled two banners earned last season. One marked winning the Missouri Valley regular-season and tournament titles. The other was for their NCAA Tournament appearance. ... Former Wichita State star Xavier McDaniel was in attendance. ... The Shockers were outrebounded in the first half, a rarity that did not go unnoticed. "We need to clean some things up," VanVleet said.
New Mexico State: Mullings, the preseason Western Athletic Conference player of the year after averaging 16.8 points last season, took only three shots in 17 first-half minutes played. He was guarded by Cotton, Wichita State's top defender. ... Menzies said his team was focused on guarding the 3-point line after Wichita State made 13 3-pointers in its exhibition. "Keeping them without a 3 is something we can take away positively," he said.
Wichita State travels to Sioux Falls, S.D., to face Memphis on Tuesday.
New Mexico State plays at St. Mary's very early Tuesday morning.
DAYS GONE BY
New Mexico State and Wichita State used to be Missouri Valley Conference rivals. The Aggies were an MVC member from 1970-71 to 1982-83 and had a 14-14 record against the Shockers entering Monday's game.
The previous meeting between New Mexico State and Wichita State was played Feb. 21, 1983 in Las Cruces, a game the Shockers won 72-70 on McDaniel's tip-in at the buzzer.