After overcoming an usual start time in its last game, Wichita State is surely looking forward to tipping off at a normal hour Thursday night when it hosts William & Mary.
Sophomore Fred VanVleet had 17 points and Kadeem Coleby posted 13 as No. 16 Wichita State (2-0) beat Western Kentucky 66-49 on Monday. Cleanthony Early added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Shockers, who only led by two at halftime.
“It’s pretty late,” VanVleet said after the game, which started at midnight locally and finished at 2:09 a.m. “It took a lot of mental and physical focus for this game.”
Wichita State, which held the Hilltoppers to 28.6 percent shooting, is on the verge of opening 3-0 for the second consecutive season. The Shockers won their first nine games in 2012-13 before advancing all the way to the Final Four, where they lost 72-68 to eventual champion Louisville.
“It makes us 2-0 instead of 1-1,” said coach Gregg Marshall, whose team was outrebounded 20-10 on the offensive glass.
“I don’t want to put too much stock in it. What I love is the fact that we won by 17 against a really good team, and there are many, many things I already know that we can get better at. It’s a long season. We’ve hopefully got 35, 36 more games, and we’ll see what happens.”
Wichita State has won by an average of 22.1 points during a 19-game run at home against non-conference opponents dating to March 2011.
That doesn’t bode well for William & Mary (1-1), which has suffered 33 consecutive losses to Top 25 foes since beating No. 2 North Carolina 78-75 on Dec. 7, 1977.
After falling 77-69 at Hampton in its opener, William & Mary bounced back with an 84-72 victory over Liberty on Tuesday. Junior Marcus Thornton led the way with 23 points, freshman Omar Prewitt scored 18 off the bench and senior Tim Rusthoven chipped in 16 on 8-of-9 shooting.
“Our guys played well,” said coach Tony Shaver, whose team shot 60.4 percent. “It’s just so nice to see so many guys contribute.”
Prewitt has been especially productive in the early going. The 6-foot-6 swingman is averaging 16.5 points on 52.6 percent shooting to go along with 6.5 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
“He’s a jewel, he’s really good,” Shaver said. “We felt that way in the recruiting process, and maybe he’s producing a little faster than even I thought. But he really knows how to play. He’s very skilled (and) has as good a feel for the game as anybody I’ve seen in a long time.
“He can score, he can pass. He’s a very thin player right now, but he can really rebound in traffic. He’s a talented young man, I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Wichita State beat visiting William & Mary 76-74 in overtime in the only previous meeting Dec. 28, 1997.