Evansville (10-13, 3-7) gave the fans a reason to cheer with a strong first half. The Aces led by 15, prompting the crowd to get in the game. When the Shockers rallied late in the first half, the noise grew deafening. "That crowd is as good as any in the country," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. "It's hard to talk to your team during the action. They're certainly fortunate to have 10,000 people." Evansville starts two freshmen and three sophomores. While spectacular sophomore guard D.J. Balentine gave the Shockers problems with his scoring, the Aces lack the size and experience to push hard. Guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet led WSU (23-0, 10-0) with 14 points each. Forward Cleanthony Early added 13 and eight rebounds. Balentine made 11 of 21 shots to score 26 points, the only Evansville player in double figures. "They just came out hot, like a lot of teams have been doing to us," Baker said. "You just keep playing the game, keep grinding it out." WSU shut down Evansville's momentum by upping its pressure in the half court, taking away easy passes and comfortable jumpers, and pressing harder in the full court. Both moves bothered the Aces. Their offense lurched out of rhythm and turnovers gave the Shockers easy baskets and fired up the crowd. "During that stretch when they're making that run, it's like pouring gasoline on a fire," Simmons said. "They play so hard and they're so active." As the game wore on, WSU's size and experience won out. It outscored the Aces 24-10 at the line and out-rebounded them 40-29. Six Shockers scored between nine and 14 points. The Aces had no answer for that depth. Evansville, which beat WSU twice last season, came out strong. It did not last. The Aces made their first eight shots, three behind the arc, to take a 21-8 lead. Balentine, running off the maze of screens in a motion offense, got loose for 10 points. He missed Evansville's first shot with 11:26 to play in the first half. The good times ended soon after for the Aces. Forward Blake Simmons' jumper gave them a 29-14 lead with 8:46 remaining. "We needed to get them out of rhythm," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. "They were in such a great rhythm offensively. They were allowed to walk it up. We needed to get the tempo more to our liking." Evansville's next possession ended when Baker stole a pass and scored to start an 11-0 run. The Aces failed to handle WSU's press and the Shockers turned bad passes and hurried shots into baskets. Two free throws by VanVleet cut Evansville's lead to 29-25 with 4:30 remaining. The Aces ended their drought with a follow shot by forward David Howard with 4:12 remaining. The Shockers kept coming. They took a 35-33 lead on Early's 3-pointer. A dunk by forward Darius Carter, on a fast break after missed shot, gave WSU a 37-33 lead. Early ended the first-half scoring with two free throws for a 39-33 edge at halftime. After starting 5 for 17 from the field, WSU made six of its final 11 shots. It made up much ground at the line by making 15 of 21 foul shots. The Aces ended the half with two starters with three fouls and three with two. They made all four of their foul shots. Evansville got within four points early in the second half. WSU responded with a 13-5 run to build a 55-43 lead. With the win, the Shockers head into their most challenging week of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule. The Shockers take their unbeaten streak on the road and hear the insults and chants directed their way. "Now we have the week everyone's been talking about and pointing at," Marshall said. "We took care of our business at home. I know there will be great atmospheres coming up." Wichita State plays at second-place Indiana State on Wednesday and at Northern Iowa on Saturday. Those stops figure to be the biggest obstacles to the MVC title and an undefeated season. "I love playing on the road," Baker said. "I always feed off the crowd." NOTES: Wichita State's 10-0 MVC start is the best in the conference since Drake went 13-0 in 2007-08. ... No. 4 Wichita State is the highest-ranked team faced by Evansville since a 91-73 loss at North Carolina in 2008. ... Wichita State C Kadeem Coleby made his first start Dec. 14 against Tennessee, replacing Chadrack Lufile in the lineup.
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