WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — After his team’s victory on Wednesday, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said he loved everything about the play of sophomore guard Erik Stevenson this season with one caveat.
“I’d like him to shoot a little better percentage,” Marshall said. “I’d like to see that.”
Stevenson had quite the response on Saturday, going 9 of 15 from the floor on his way to a career-high 29 points to propel No. 24 Wichita State past Ole Miss 74-54.
Stevenson had to cool down to shoot 60 percent after making eight of his first 11 shots. His 19 first-half points gave Wichita State (13-1, 1-0 American) 39-24 halftime lead.
“It kind of felt like high school,” said Stevenson, who was 5 of 11 from the three-point line. “That’s a good team, obviously a tough ballclub, but it feels good to get a good win. And put on a show.”
Jamarius Burton scored 16 points, and Grant Sherfield added 10 for the Shockers.
“It was a special night for Erik,” Marshall said. “I thought he and (Burton) were the two toughest guys on the court.”
Khadim Sy and Devontae Shuler each scored 12 points for Ole Miss (9-4, 0-0 SEC).
Rebels coach Kermit Davis said Stevenson was a big concern coming into the game, the Shocker that stood out most as he watched tape on Wichita State.
“I can only imagine how competitive he is in practices,” Davis said admiringly.
Stevenson had six rebounds and three steals, but his shooting was the highlight on Saturday.
Stevenson entered the game shooting 39.9 percent from the floor and 34.2 percent from the 3-point line this season. On Saturday, he was hunting shots as the hot hand.
About the only thing that slowed down Stevenson was crashing hard into the media row signage late in the first half. He went to the locker room, got five stitches, and came back to keep hitting shots.
“We had a designed play for me to get a 3 after that,” Stevenson said, “and I knew it was going in.”
Another Stevenson 3-pointer pushed Wichita State’s lead over 20, 54-33, for the first time with 15:51 to play. The crowd roared, and he coasted back down the court holding three fingers.
“Erik was amazing,” Burton said. “Really, he was doing it all tonight.”
Ole Miss never really threatened after that. The Rebels shot better than 50 percent in each of their previous four games, all wins, but managed just 30.8 percent from the floor on Saturday. Ole Miss led the SEC in assists, averaging 16.8 entering Saturday’s game, but had only five Saturday to go with 15 turnovers.
Marshall pointed to outscoring the Rebels 20-1 in points off turnovers, and so did Davis.
“We thought points off turnovers would be huge, and it was,” Davis said.
FOR COMPARISON’S SAKE
Memphis and Wichita State are the two American Athletic Conference teams currently ranked and the presumed conference favorites.
Ole Miss lost 87-86 at Memphis on Nov. 23
“Wichita State is as good as anyone we’ve played this year, and that includes Butler,” Davis said. “They’re going to have a great year.”
DENNIS ON THE BENCH
Wichita State sophomore Dexter Dennis returned to the team after missing three games for personal reasons. Dennis, who started 25 games as a freshman, lost his starting role in December and was shooting just 27,8 percent this season.
Dennis entered Saturday’s game with 13:42 remaining in the first half to a thunderous standing ovation.
Dennis missed both of his shots and had four fouls in four minutes, but Marshall is confident there will be progress.
“It’s going to happen, and I’m going to continue to give him the opportunities,” Marshall said. “He still has the talent.”
Ole Miss: The Rebels missed a chance for quality win but now focus on conference play
Wichita State: The Shockers get a nice victory to start a five-game stretch against opponents that began the day ranked in the KenPom’s top 90.
Ole Miss: The Rebels travel to Texas A&M on Tuesday
Wichita State: The Shockers host No. 9 Memphis on Thursday.