Wichita State has trailed at halftime during six of its 10 games this season and — once again — trailing Tennessee at halftime, the No. 12 Shockers never wavered in coming from behind for a 70-62 win at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita.
Wichita State improved to a school-record 10-0 on the season and although the Shockers seem to have a hard time getting off to a quick start, the only thing that should matter is the way they’re finishing games. Despite sophomore Ron Baker’s sprained ankle, the Shockers beat a tough Tennessee team by limiting them on the glass and on the interior.
Baker only had eight points, but he helped contribute to an overall Wichita State defensive and rebounding effort that held Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes to a combined 6-for-15 shooting for 17 points and 13 rebounds. Although senior Jordan McRae went for 26, Tennessee simply didn’t have scoring help around McRae, as Stokes and Maymon put up a combined stat-line that a single one of them could achieve in some games while Josh Richardson struggled to 2-for-8 shooting as the only other Vol to attempt more than four field goal tries.
With Baker — the Shockers’ leading scorer — only producing eight points, Tekele Cotton picked up the scoring slack, scoring all 19 of his points in the second half, and also made a few game-changing plays in the final 10 minutes.
After a Jarnell Stokes three-point play put Tennessee ahead 44-41 with under 10 minutes remaining, it looked liked Tennessee might get their junior interior force going and begin to pull away.
But following the Stokes three-point play, Cotton made two free throws, blocked a Jeronne Maymon shot off the glass on the ensuing Tennessee possession and followed that Wichita State rebound up with a three-point play through traffic as the Shockers quickly recovered the lead at 46-44 and never trailed again.
Cleanthony Early also didn’t play his best today, scoring 13 points, but only shooting 6-for-15 and 1-for-6 from the three-point line while grabbing two rebounds and showing some poor basketball IQ at times with rushed shot selection and reckless drives that nearly caused turnovers.
Wichita State should be pleased with the development of junior college transfer forward Darius Carter off-the-bench though, as the 6-foot-7 junior registered his first double-double of the season at 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Shockers aren’t as deep as last season’s Final Four team, but they are getting key performances from different guys in different games and finding ways to win down the stretch as they appear to be plenty balanced this season as well.