It’s been seven weeks since Wichita State needed an inspired comeback to take its perfect record beyond a visit to Missouri State.
The second-ranked Shockers now stand on the cusp of an undefeated regular season as they face the Bears again Saturday.
At 16-0, Wichita State was a little more than halfway through its run of perfection when it headed to Missouri State on Jan. 11. That unblemished record appeared very much in jeopardy when the Shockers trailed by 19 with 11:48 remaining.
Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker had eight points apiece during the team’s ensuing 29-10 run to end regulation, and Fred VanVleet took over with 12 of Wichita State’s final 13 points in a 72-69 overtime victory.
Early finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds, VanVleet contributed 16 and Baker had 15.
The Shockers became the first Division I team to reach 30-0 in the regular season Tuesday with a 69-49 rout at Bradley. Their 17-0 mark in the Missouri Valley has already earned them the regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament, which begins Thursday.
"To be the first and only team in college basketball to win 30 without a loss in the regular season," coach Gregg Marshall said. ”I realize we’re playing more games … but it has never happened in the regular season.
"So it’s a first. And these guys like to be the first, and the best."
Wichita State will try to head into the MVC tournament as the first team to complete a perfect regular season since Saint Joseph’s in 2003-04. The Shockers can also become the eighth team to start 31-0 or better and the first to finish 18-0 in the MVC since Oklahoma in 1927-28.
They’ll try to accomplish those goals against a Missouri State team that’s dropped seven of nine on the road. The Bears, though, have won their last two games in convincing fashion, including a 77-66 victory over second-place Indiana State last Saturday.
They followed with a 72-56 win over Loyola of Chicago on Tuesday. Christian Kirk had 16 points off the bench and leading scorer Jarmar Gulley recorded his sixth double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Gulley is averaging 14.9 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds for the Bears, who have been missing another top scorer since the most recent matchup with Wichita State. Sophomore guard Marcus Marshall, averaging 14.3 points, tore the meniscus in his right knee in that loss and has been out since undergoing surgery.
Marshall, the MVC’s freshman of the year in 2012-13, and Gulley scored 15 points apiece against the Shockers. Gulley also grabbed 14 rebounds, and freshman guard Austin Ruder had 17 points while going 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
Wichita State has won the last six meetings and is 21-6 all-time at home against the Bears. The Shockers have won by a combined 44 points in the past two visits from Missouri State.
The Bears have lost nine consecutive games to Top 25 teams and four in a row on the road since a 77-65 victory at No. 21 Creighton on Dec. 28, 2011. They are facing their highest-ranked opponent since a 78-61 loss to No. 1 Duke in the NCAA tournament’s regional semifinals March 19, 1999.