Wichita St.-Drake Preview
Senior guard Evan Wessel believes Wichita State's defense can overcome any shortcomings at the other end, though that certainly wasn't the case in the team's second Missouri Valley Conference defeat in the past three years.
The 25th-ranked Shockers are likely to have an easier time as they try to bounce back on the road Tuesday night with their ninth straight win over league-worst Drake.
Wichita State appeared on its way to a 20th straight MVC win and 13th in a row overall Saturday with a 16-point lead in the second half at Illinois State.
The Shockers, however, managed only seven field goals while getting outscored 37-20 in the last 20 minutes of a 58-53 loss that snapped a nine-game MVC road winning streak.
Star guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet look to regroup after totaling 17 points on 5-of-21 shooting. VanVleet had averaged 17.7 points while hitting 13 of 23 from 3-point range in his previous six contests for Wichita State (17-6, 11-1).
After falling to 46-2 in conference play since the start of 2013-14 despite limiting the Redbirds to 27.3 percent shooting, the Shockers are determined to solve their issues on the glass. They've been outrebounded 99-64 over their past two games.
“Our defense is part of our rebounding,” Wessel said. “They got some second-chance shots that led to their run. We feel like if we any time can play defense at a high-level, then no matter what our offense is doing, we're going to win.”
The Shockers still lead the MVC by three games and a win would trim their magic number to clinch at least a share of their second straight regular-season title to two.
“We have to keep the mindset that the next game is the most important game on our schedule,” Wessel added. “They're must-wins.”
Drake (6-18, 1-11) has lost 15 of 17 but has outrebounded its last five opponents. Ore Arogundade has averaged 8 rebounds in his past four, while Dominik Olejniczak has scored 8.3 per game on 24-of-28 shooting with 5.3 boards in his last seven.
The Shockers had a 38-28 rebounding edge in a 67-47 home win over the Bulldogs on Dec. 31. Baker and VanVleet totaled 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Baker needs four points to match Cliff Levingston for 12th on the school's all-time list at 1,471.
The Shockers should make strides offensively against a Drake team that ranks at the bottom of the league in most defensive categories. The Bulldogs let Northern Iowa shoot 61.8 percent and make 12 3-pointers in Saturday's 82-66 home defeat.
“We need to do a better job of pressuring the basketball, which will give us more time to recover,” coach Ray Giacoletti told the school's official website.
Wichita State shot 42.6 percent while limiting Drake to a 37.2 mark, including 6 for 16 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs now lead the MVC with a 40.3 3-point percentage.
Reed Timmer, who ranks third in the MVC at 17.5 points per game, scored 18 against the Panthers but was held to a season-low seven at Wichita State in December.
The Shockers lead the conference with 61.2 points allowed per game and a 39.3 defensive field-goal percentage. They've won the past eight meetings with Drake by an average of 19.8 points, including three straight at the Knapp Center.