SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The No. 11 Wichita State Shockers pushed their regular-season win streak to a nation-leading 33 games on Tuesday, pulling away from Memphis in the second half for a 71-56 win at the Sanford Pentagon.
The Shockers (2-0), lost consensus second-team All-American Cleanthony Early to the NBA draft, but returned preseason All-American guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.
Ron Baker figured prominently in the Shockers’ second-half push, leading them with 21 points after scoring just four in the first. VanVleet added 15 for the Shockers, who had four starters in double figures.
“We just needed to get into a rhythm,” said Baker, a 6-4 junior guard who averaged 16 points last year. “We weren’t making shots early in the game, we weren’t getting good looks, we weren’t finishing layups. When we started making those, making the open shots, things got smoother for us.”
Nick King led Memphis with 16 points, while Austin Nichols and Avery Woodson added 10 each.
The Tigers didn’t help themselves, committing 14 first-half turnovers and 24 overall.
“We need to work on taking care of the ball more,” said King, who added seven rebounds. “We have less turnovers in this game and we crash the glass more, we’re going to be in great shape.”
Both teams struggled from the field early in the first half. The Tigers missed 11 of their first 13 shots and trailed 13-6 with 7:45 remaining. Wichita State was slightly better at 5 of 21 at that point.
Nichols’ three-point play narrowed the Memphis deficit to 21-19 with 1:57 left in the half, but the Shockers went on an 8-3 run to lead 29-22 at the break.
Baker hit the Shockers’ first 3-pointer of the season with 16:14 left in the second half to give Wichita State a 38-29 lead and added another with 13:43 remaining to cap a 15-2 run that gave Wichita State a 47-31 lead.
“I don’t know what is going on with the 3, I thought we were a great 3-point shooting team,” said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, the national coach of the year last season. “But then we finally made one and then we made a couple more.”
The Shockers pushed the lead to 60-40 with 8:39 to play on a pair of VanVleet free throws and led by 17 or more points most of the way.
Wichita State: No. 11 is the highest ranking to open a season for the Shockers since 1981-82, when they opened at No. 6....The Shockers got 45 out of 46 first-place votes in a Missouri Valley preseason poll of coaches, media members and sports information directors....This was the first matchup of these two teams since Feb. 7, 1983.
Memphis: The Tigers have had seven players miss a total of 52 practices since preseason drills began on Oct. 7....Memphis played one exhibition game leading into its opener, losing 74-70 in overtime to Christian Brothers, an NCAA Division II school.
• SHOOTING STRUGGLES
Wichita State made 25-of-62 from the field, hitting 13-of-31 in the second half and 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Tigers, who shot just 29 percent from in the first half, improved to more than 50 percent in the second (13-of-25).
• NEUTRAL COURT
The neutral-site game was the first of the season for the Tigers and the second for the Shockers, who defeated New Mexico State 71-54 on Nov. 14.
• UP NEXT
Wichita State will host Newman on Sunday.
Memphis will host Prairie View A&M on Monday.