CONWAY, S.C. – Behind a career-high 20 points from Xavier Bell, Wichita State won its opening game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, 86-77, over Coastal Carolina Thursday night.
Wichita State (4-0) advances to the Myrtle Beach Invitational semifinals where they will face the winner of Furman and Liberty Friday at 8 p.m. CDT on ESPNU. The Shockers are 4-0 for the 25th time in school history.
Bell went for a career-high 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while also grabbing seven boards and dishing five dimes. His seven rebounds were also a career best and his five assists tied a career high.
In total, five Shockers finished in double figures. Kenny Pohto scored all 16 of his points after halftime to go with eight rebounds. Dalen Ridgnal poured in 15 off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting and 3-of-6 from long range. Colby Rogers dished out a career-high six assists to go with 15 points.
Harlond Beverly chipped in 10.
The Shockers committed only seven turnovers and knocked down a season-high 12 three pointers. Overall, Wichita State shot 45.1 percent from the floor. Coastal Carolina shot 43 percent for the game, and went 10-for-26 from three-point range.
Wichita State scored the game’s first seven points only to see Coastal Carolina respond with its own 12-2 run to grab a 12-9 lead 5:42 into the game. With the Chanticleers leading 15-14, Ridgnal ignited the Shocker offense with five straight points on a three-pointer and putback dunk.
Ridgnal would cash in on two more triples in the first half on the way to 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
The first half was powered by Bell and Ridgnal, as the duo combined for 25 of the team’s 43 first half points. Wichita State would grab a 43-39 lead after 20 minutes.
After a sluggish, scoreless first half, Pohto came out firing. He scored 12 points in the first 6:00 minutes to help Wichita State turn a four-point halftime lead into a 14-point lead with 13:19 to go.
Coastal Carolina, playing on its home court, would not go away. In less than 4:00 minutes of game clock, the Chanticleers pulled with three, 66-63. Over the next three minutes, the two teams traded buckets, keeping the margin at four until Rogers dropped two straight jumpers.
After another Coastal score made it a six-point game, Beverly drilled his only three of the game, which essentially proved to be the final dagger with 3:53 to go. The Chanticleers wouldn’t come closer than six over the final 3:03.
Wichita State Coach Paul Mills
“I think road wins are hard, anytime you get in this environment and travel and all the things that go with it. I know we got up 14 with about 14 to play and you didn’t exe-pect anything less than for them to battle back. I thought we were really composed, made free throws down the stretch and we were fortunate to get the ‘W’ tonight.”
… on the play of guard Xavier Bell
“From a points perspective, he was great, but I think Xavier’s leadership gets lost on people. He’s obviously been in this position to be able to lead others. He’s seen what this looks like up close and he knows how to assemble everybody in those rough moments. To have a guy like him out there when you’re up 14 and they cut it to three, you really don’t worry that much when you have his leadership out there. I thought he did a great job just gathering everybody together and making sure that we understood coverages. 20 points is great. He shot it well, made the open shots, and the five assists are a bonus. He has the ability to score, but again, his defensive communication was really impressive.”
… on his assessment of the team down the stretch
“You have to be able to make shots in those moments and get the most out of your possessions. You got to get quality shots. We track energy points and we only had 10 at half. I just didn’t think from a deflection standpoint and an activity standpoint we were great. We finished with 24 [deflections] in the second half and I thought we were much more active. We were getting our hands on loose balls, we won our 50-50s. Kenny Pohto was able to get to the floor. I thought our activity picked up a little bit better, allowed us to get the lead and then we got complacent. We’ll learn from it and grow from it but we responded the right away.
… on having everyone contribute
“Colby Rogers can really score the ball and he finished with six assists and zero turnovers. I thought he did a great job just moving the ball and taking care of it. We only finished with seven [assists] as a team. I thought kenny Pohto had a really rough first half and then he finishes with 16 points in the second half. He was second on our team, ‘X’ [Xavier Bell] led us with nine, and then Kenny had eight. I thought his activity turned up.”
… on holding on to a lead and having so many Shocker fans helped them win
“That helps. Wichita State and Shocker nation are well known for supporting their basketball program and they were phenomenal. It helps, especially when you’re on the road, because you know how quickly these tides can turn. To have the support that we get, we don’t take it for granted.”
Wichita State Guard Xavier Bell
… on playing in front of so many Shocker fans on the road
“It was cool. Especially just to see them travel so much, I know my parents came as well. But to show the support that Shocker fans do, I think it’s a testament to our fanbase, but then it just shows us what we can do on the road as well.”