Wichita St.-Missouri St. Preview
With Ron Baker leading the offense and Tekele Cotton providing lock-down defense, Wichita State hasn’t had much trouble extending the longest Missouri Valley Conference run in 91 years.
The 14th-ranked Shockers must now return to the scene of their biggest scare during last season’s unbeaten regular season as they seek a 25th straight league win Wednesday night at Missouri State.
Wichita State (16-2, 6-0) had to rally back from an 18-point halftime deficit at JQH Arena on Jan. 11, 2014, before escaping with a 71-68 overtime victory for its 17th win during an NCAA-record 35-0 start.
Fred VanVleet had 16 points on 3-of-11 shooting in that contest, but sank a tying free throw with eight seconds left in regulation and two more with 8.8 seconds left in overtime to seal the win. The star guard is struggling offensively heading into this meeting, totaling nine points while battling foul trouble in his past two games.
Baker and Darius Carter had 18 points apiece in Saturday’s 61-41 win at Evansville to help extend the Shockers’ conference winning streak that dates to March 2, 2013. They’ve won by an average of 15.0 points during that run, which is the league’s longest since Kansas’ record 34-game streak between 1922-24.
Baker leads the MVC with 42 3-pointers made and ranks third with 16.3 points per game. He’s shot 62.5 percent in four career meetings with the Bears, including two March wins by a combined 48 points.
Since allowing an average of 63.3 points on 46.6 percent shooting over a six-game stretch, Wichita State has tightened things up by allowing 52.0 points per game on 35.2 percent from the field in conference play.
Cotton, the 2013-14 MVC defensive player of the year, helped hold Evansville’s D.J. Balentine to 16 points – 4.5 less than his league-leading average entering the contest – on 6-of-17 shooting Saturday.
”You just got to get ready mentally and really zone in on what they do offensively,” Cotton said after the Shockers held Evansville to its lowest total of the season. ”It’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
Marcus Marshall, who was averaging 19.5 points, won’t be available as the Bears (8-10, 2-4) look to end an eight-game losing streak in this series. Coach Paul Lusk suspended the star guard for detrimental conduct before the school announced Friday that he’ll transfer at the end of the spring semester.
Austin Ruder is now the team’s leading scorer at just 8.8 points per game. He had 17 and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range in last year’s home meeting with the Shockers, but totaled six while missing all seven attempts in the other two matchups.
Ruder had 13 points and Dorrian Williams added 11 Sunday as Missouri State shot 36.8 percent en route to a season-low point total in a 60-46 loss at No. 20 Northern Iowa.
Since opening the league schedule 2-0, the Bears have averaged 52.8 points on 36.6 percent shooting – including a 25.9 mark from 3-point range – over a four-game losing streak.
The Bears have dropped 12 in a row versus ranked opponents by an average of 16.1 points.