WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fred VanVleet figures that nobody is going to pay much attention to him when guys like Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker are getting all the early season hype for Wichita State. Might as well take advantage of it.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fred VanVleet figures that nobody is going to pay much attention to him when guys like Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker are getting all the early season hype for Wichita State.
Might as well take advantage of it.
The gritty guard poured in a career-high 18 points and added eight assists Thursday night, helping the 16th-ranked Shockers to a 79-62 victory over William & Mary.
It was one point better than VanVleet's performance earlier in the week against Western Kentucky.
"Obviously I'm playing more minutes, I'm being aggressive, but to be honest, as an opponent, when you're looking at our team overall, I'm not the first guy you're trying to take away," said VanVleet, a sophomore. "That's the benefit of having great players beside you."
Those guys still did their part against the Tribe.
Early finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, Baker added 13 points and three steals, and Kadeem Coleby finished with 10 points as the Shockers (3-0) continued their hot start on the heels of 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.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "They had a run to start the game. They were up 10, I think. And from that point on, we won by 27."
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.
"Games like this will teach you a lot about your team," William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said. "I told the guys, 'Feel this, sense this, do this every day, and you can be good.'"
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 the Tribe.
They 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.
"They came out and got the first punch on us, which doesn't happen very often, but it happened tonight," VanVleet said. "When you start off a game bad, now you're playing catch-up for a half. But we started doing some things better toward the end of the first half."
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.
"He's our floor general. Without Fred, it's going to be hard for us," said the Shockers' Nick Wiggins. "He's a big part of what we have going on this year."
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 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.
"We need to play with that kind of level and intensity and desire every night," Shaver said. "If we do, we have a chance to win some games."
Follow Dave Skretta on Twitter @APdaveskretta