Tekele Cotton

Wichita State takes down Southern Illinois, improves to 26-0


Tuesday night wasn’t the best performance from No. 4 Wichita State. But like the previous 25 games it ended with a Shockers victory.

Wichita State trailed Southern Illinois by one at halftime, allowed too much dribble penetration on defense, shot 2-for-14 from beyond the arc in the first half and got a bad outing from starting point guard Fred Van Vleet, who struggled with foul trouble before ending the night with three points, three assists, three steals and two turnovers.

Yet the Shockers still remain unbeaten with a 78-67 win at home. As the wins pile up, the odds of a perfect season increases. Entering Tuesday, the Shockers had a 69 percent chance of running the table, according to kenpom. The three upcoming games are against the three bottom teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, and the other two games after that — Bradley and Missouri State — are against teams with a combined 12-12 conference record.

Wichita State made a run to the Final Four last year, and here’s the thing: the Shockers are better this season. The Shockers have good guard play with Van Vleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton and Cleanthony Early is the top player in the conference. All of them went through last season’s Final Four run as well.

During the course of the season, they shown the ability to close out games, regardless of how it looks, including Tuesday night. Wichita State passed its toughest test with road games against Indiana State and Northern Iowa last week. The remaining schedule may be easier on paper, but go back to last Wednesday and read what Rob Dauster wrote about the Shockers after its win at Indiana State.

Every team, from here on out, will give Wichita State its best shot. A game against the Shockers is every team’s Super Bowl, and Tuesday night, that’s how Southern Illinois treated it. The undersized Salukis took a three-rebound advantage into the half, and didn’t fold once the Shockers went up nine, 57-48, in the second half.

Despite a far from perfect performance, the Shockers’ record remains unblemished against a team, who was riding a four-game winning streak, and was playing for a season-defining win. Yet, the Shockers found a way to win, one step closer to an undefeated regular season and another potential run in March.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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Rick Pitino: Louisville ‘just ignored’ in top 25 due of scandal

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Louisville beatdown Saint Louis at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, a 77-57 win that was much closer at halftime than the final score might indicate.

The win moved the Cardinals to 5-0 on the season, and that, in turn, got Louisville into the back end of both top 25 polls.

They’re 24th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll, but that happened on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Pitino made sure to get a rant in about how this team is viewed and why pundits and voters should overlook the scandal currently plaguing his program.

“I think people are looking at that and they’re not really studying the team,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, adding that he thinks the team is “just ignored” because of the accusations leveled by self-described madam Katina Powell in the book she published back in October.

And here’s the thing: he is 100 percent correct. Louisville was overlooked in the preseason because the scandal, when combined with the fact that the Cardinals are integrating so many new pieces into their rotation, made it tough to see how they would be able to compete at a level that we’ve come to expect out of Louisville teams.

I know that because it’s why my colleagues at NBCSports.com, against my wishes, refused to allow me to rank Louisville in the preseason top 25. In other words, I’ve had first-hand interactions with the haters. But if we’re going to be honest here, scandal or no scandal, Louisville probably wasn’t going to find their way into the preseason top 25, not when they had to replace Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.

And scandal or no scandal, no team from outside the top 25 is going to play their way into the top 25 by beating the likes of North Florida and St. Francis (NY) without some shenanigans — like Fred VanVleet getting hurt, like Indiana collapsing, like Arizona and Cal and Notre Dame playing their way out of the top 20 — happening around the country.

So Pitino is right: the scandal probably did have an impact on how his team was viewed in the preseason.

But Pitino the scandal isn’t what kept them out of the top 25 until Monday.

That weak non-conference schedule and roster turnover was why.

And if we’re going to be honest here, it probably should have kept them out for another week.