CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson was back on the bench. His thoughts were elsewhere.
Taking nothing away from No. 8 Wichita State, Hinson blamed himself after the Salukis opened Missouri Valley Conference play with an 82-67 loss Thursday night.
"I know people keep asking, ‘How are you doing?’" Hinson said in an emotional postgame news conference. "The biggest thing that bothers me is I’m a basketball coach and I’m a father and we fix things.
"And I can’t, I can’t fix this."
Hinson missed one game due to the death of his son-in-law, 31-year-old Niles Thomason, on Christmas while visiting family. The usually fiery coach, who called out his team after a recent loss at Murray State, wasn’t himself.
"I got on these guys pretty hard and I literally pointed the finger at those guys," Hinson said. "I don’t mind telling you I’m going to point the finger at me.
"My teams have always played off my energy. We didn’t play inspired, we played flat, we were paralyzed with fear. "
Fred VanVleet had 17 points, seven assists and two steals and Wichita State remained unbeaten behind 62 percent shooting and nearly error-free play.
"We had late breakdowns a lot," Southern Illinois forward Sean O’Brien said. "They got, I think, probably every loose ball tonight."
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall had been worried about an upset.
"They were very good offensively, they shot it way too well," Marshall said. "Guys that don’t normally make shots were making them."
Cleanthony Early scored 23 points for the Shockers (14-0, 1-0), the preseason conference favorites coming off a Final Four appearance. The 14-0 start is five wins better than the school’s previous best and the 14-game winning streak matches the school mark set in 1953-54 under coach Ralph Miller.
O’Brien and Desmar Jackson had 19 points apiece for Southern Illinois (4-10, 0-1), which upset Wichita State at home last February the week after the Shockers had been knocked out of the Top 25.
"He’s going through a lot right now," Jackson said of Hinson. "We’re just trying to pick him up by playing hard, letting him know we’re here for him. We’ve got his back."
Nick Wiggins added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting for Wichita State.
Southern Illinois was out of it early despite shooting 54 percent. O’Brien topped his previous career best of 11 points and had three 3-pointers.
"We’re just trying to pick him up," said O’Brien, who had seven rebounds. "I think we did a good job of that the second half; the first half we came out a little flat."
Wichita State shot 59 percent to go with a 16-8 rebounding advantage while building a 49-32 halftime lead, committing its lone turnover with about 3 minutes to go.
The Shockers got contributions across the board with an 18-0 run over a span of 3:19 that made it 33-16 with just over 8 minutes to go. Darius Carter opened the run with consecutive baskets and the Shockers got three-point plays from Early and VanVleet plus 3-pointers by Wiggins and VanVleet.
Late in the half, Tekele Cotton and Early got behind the Southern Illinois defense on consecutive possessions in transition.
The Shockers are 30-8 on the road the last three seasons, best in the nation.