Cotton leads Wichita State past Tennessee State
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State was trailing at halftime again, and coach Gregg Marshall let his team know what he thought about the slow start.
The Shockers got the message.
Tekele Cotton scored 18 points to help No. 16 Wichita State beat Tennessee State 85-71 on Saturday.
Cotton was 6 of 8 from the floor as Wichita State (4-0) won its fourth game in eight days despite trailing at halftime for the second straight game. William & Mary was up 39-38 at the break on Thursday night, and the Shockers went on to a 79-62 win.
So when Wichita State trailed 29-28 as it headed to the locker room on Saturday, Marshall ripped into the Shockers.
“He chewed us up,” Cotton said, smiling.
Cleanthony Early had 16 points for Wichita State, and Nick Wiggins scored 10 of his 12 in the second half.
Patrick Miller had 23 points for Tennessee State (0-4), and M.J. Rhett added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Tigers led 36-33 in the second half when Jordan Gaither missed a layup in transition and Cotton made two foul shots at the other end. Then Early had a steal and a layup to make it 37-36 with 16:36 remaining, sending a charge through the crowd.
“That was the key moment,” Tennessee State coach Travis Williams said. “We are trying to keep the crowd out of the game because we know how much they feed off this environment. It’s one of the best in the country.”
Darius Carter and Early each converted a three-point play and Cotton hit his third 3-pointer to help Wichita State open a 48-38 lead with 13:03 to go.
Cotton was 4 of 4 from the 3-point line.
“He looked very confident,” Marshall said. “And when he shoots them like that, they tend to go in.”
Tennessee State fell off the pace from there, with Derail Green and Wiggins hitting consecutive 3-pointers for a 76-57 lead with 4:05 remaining.
The Shockers were 18 of 32 from the floor in the second half, including Wiggins making all four of his second-half shots.
“Nick’s playing really well and giving us a spark off the bench,” Marshall said. “And when you do that, your minutes go up. His are on the rise.”
Rhett powered Tennessee State to a strong start, scoring four points in an 8-2 surge that tied it at 21 with 5:27 remaining in first half. Miller then made a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to give the Tigers the lead at the break.
Rhett, who began the day with averages of 9 points and 8.3 rebounds, had nine points and seven rebounds in the first half against the Shockers.
“He was that dude for us,” Williams said. “He was a matchup problem for them, very active on the glass and really got us going.”
Wichita State was 10 of 30 from the floor at halftime, continuing a troubling trend of uneven first-half performances.
“We wanted to try so hard to get off to a good start this time,” starter Fred VanVleet said. “When it didn’t happen, you get frustrated.”
Marshall admitted the hectic schedule was probably a factor.
“Playing four games in 7½ days is a lot,” he said. “But if you can play in the second half, why can’t you play in the first? So I have to get that figured out.”