ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tekele Cotton scored nine straight points to fuel a 17-3 pull-away run in the first half and No. 8 Wichita State beat Southern Illinois 56-45 in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Friday.
VIDEO | See below for post-game press conference and game highlights
Fred VanVleet had 13 points, four assists and three steals for the Shockers (28-3), who beat Southern Illinois (12-21) for the third straight time.
Cotton topped 1,000 career points and finished with 12 points, three assists and a block. Ron Baker had 10 points, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
Jalen Pendleton had 12 points and Anthony Beane 10 for Southern Illinois, which shot 34 percent and committed 18 turnovers. Beane scored eight of the Salukis’ first 10 points but missed nine of his last 10 shots.
Wichita State will face either Illinois State or Evansville, the fourth and fifth seeds, in the semifinals on Sunday. The Shockers were 17-1 in conference play, the lone loss at Northern Iowa on Jan. 31, and clinched their second straight regular season title with a 16-point victory over Northern Iowa in the season finale.
Cotton is the Valley defensive player of the year the last two seasons and is averaging 9.4 points. His first points of the game, including a 3-pointer that ended a 1-for-6 drought from long range, put Wichita State up 19-15 with just over five minutes left in the half.
Southern Illinois, the No. 9 seed, had 11 turnovers in the half and managed just five points the last eight minutes before the break.
The eighth and ninth seeds have never beaten the top seed in the conference tourney.
VIDEO | Post-game press conference
VIDEO | First Half Highlights from KSN’s Emily Gagnon and Molly Hadfield
VIDEO | Second Half Highlights from KSN’s Emily Gagnon and Molly Hadfield