(WICHITA, Kan.) — It wasn’t easy, but the fourth-ranked team in the nation ran its record to 26-0 with a 78-67 win over Southern Illinois on Tuesday. Wichita State, one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball, trailed the Salukis (10-6, 6-7 MVC) at halftime, but rallied for the victory.
The Shockers trailed by only one point at halftime, 33-32, but made just two of 14 attempts from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes of the second half. That allowed Southern Illinois star Anthony Beane a chance to go for the upset. Beane scored 25 points in the contest, including a second half-dunk that put the Salukis up four.
However, the high-powered Wichita State team fought through their early struggles and earned a 44-43 lead on a Cleanthony Early free throw with 15:50 to play in regulation. That triggered a four minute, 14-5 run by the Shockers, giving them a nine point advantage. Southern Illinois got as close as four the rest of the way as Wichita State made their free throws to hold on for the win.
Early was 11-for-12 from the charity stripe, scoring 18 points for the Shockers while Ron Baker had a team-best 19 in the victory. Wichita State and No. 1 Syracuse (23-0) are the only two undefeated teams left in college basketball this season.
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Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN