WICHITA, Kan. — Fred VanVleet had a career-high 18 points, Cleanthony Early added 14 and No. 16 Wichita State pulled away in the second half to beat William & Mary 79-62 on Thursday night.
Ron Baker added 13 points and Kadeem Coleby had 10 for the Shockers (3-0), who are off to another hot start after their dramatic NCAA tournament run last season. They have won 20 straight non-conference games at home by an average of 22 points.
This one wasn’t easy – the Shockers trailed by a point at halftime. But they took advantage of their superior size and depth in the second half to pull away down the stretch.
Marcus Thornton had 18 points to lead the Tribe (1-2), who were just 11 of 22 from the free throw line. Tim Rusthoven added 13 points and freshman Omar Prewitt finished with 11.
After running roughshod over Emporia State and Western Kentucky to start the season, the Shockers finally ran into some adversity for the first time against William & Mary.
The Tribe rolled to a 13-3 lead in the opening minutes, and never trailed in the first half. Rusthoven had 10 points in the first 20 minutes, dominating in the post, and Thornton got hot from the outside later in the half to keep Wichita State at bay.
The Shockers finally got going late in the half. Naturally, it was Early – one of the breakout stars of last year’s Final Four – who led the way.
The lanky swingman scored all his points in the final 5 minutes of the half, in two seven-point spurts. The first was highlighted by a 3-pointer and a conventional three-point play, the second by a long 3-pointer that got Wichita State within 39-38 at halftime.
Mired in foul trouble, William & Mary began to let the game slip away in the second half.
Wichita State took its first lead on Coleby’s dunk to start the second half, and then pushed the lead to 53-43 on a 3-pointer by VanVleet a few minutes later.
VanVleet had eight assists.
Meanwhile, the Tribe’s Kyle Gaillard spent long stretches on the bench with three fouls, and Rusthoven picked up his fourth with just over 12 minutes remaining.
Wichita State capitalized on the momentum. Darius Carter converted a three-point play to make it 56-45, and a turnover by the Tribe and run-out dunk by Chadrack Lufile forced William & Mary coach Tony Shaver to signal for a timeout – one that wasn’t granted for several seconds because the officiating crew couldn’t hear him over the roar inside Koch Arena.
The Tribe settled back down and stubbornly hung around until the final few minutes, when the accumulation of fouls started a parade of Shockers to the foul line.
They made enough to deal William & Mary its 34th consecutive loss to a Top 25 opponent.