No. 4 Wichita State remains unbeaten, its toughest test behind it, but not without plenty of anxiety.
The Shockers defeated Indiana State 65-58 on Wednesday at the Hulman Center, surviving a desperate effort by the Sycamores.
Wichita State is one of the nation’s two unbeaten teams (Syracuse is the other) and opened a three-game lead in the Missouri Valley Conference with a sweep of second-place Indiana State.
Chadrack Lufile made four free throws in the final 43 seconds, sealing the win. Cleanthony Early provided breathing room with a three-point play with 1:03 remaining that gave Wichita State a 61-56 lead.
Wichita State, 24-0 overall and 11-0 in the Missouri Valley, extended its school-record win streak despite poor foul shooting. Indiana State, 17-6 and 8-3, lost for the first time in nine games at home.
Early led Wichita State with 19 points. Manny Arop led Indiana State with 16.
Wichita State built an 11-point lead, 50-39, in the second half. It appeared to have the crowd negated and the Sycamores flummoxed. Then Indiana State started outhustling Wichita State and the tide turned. Early scored inside against a variety of defenders to awaken from a quiet first half.
The Sycamores grabbed three offensive rebounds in one trip, finally scoring to cut the lead to 52-44. After a Shocker miss, guard Dawon Cummings took the rebound from center Kadeem Coleby to start a break that ended with Jake Odum’s bank shot, making the score 52-48. Tekele Cotton missed a three-pointer, and Cummings made two free throws with 9:04 to play, cutting Wichita State’s lead to 52-50.
Indiana State’s Khristian Smith, who hurt the Sycamores with turnovers early in the half, bailed the Shockers out of a difficult situation. Indiana State played great defense and forced Cotton into an off-balance three at the end of the shot clock. He sailed into Smith, and officials whistled him for a foul. Cotton, after barely hitting rim on the first free throw, made the next two for a 54-50 lead with 8:30 to play.
Early scored on the block over two defenders and made it 56-50. But the Shockers lost center Justin Gant on a break, and Odum found him with a pitch-back for a three from the top of the key. Cotton’s layup, on a pretty pass from Baker through traffic, gave Wichita State a 58-53 lead.
Wichita State, however, broke down on offense. Darius Carter missed two free throws with 3:44 to play. A shot-clock violation gave the ball to Indiana State with 2:47 to play. Cummings blocked a three by Early. Up 58-56, Wichita State struggled to get a good shot, and Carter missed a short jumper and lost the ball off the backboard attempting a follow shot.
Five straight empty trips for the Shockers gave Indiana State a chance, down 58-56 with 1:22 to play. But they got no closer.