Preview: No. 11 Shockers visit Alabama looking to keep unblemished record in tact
Neither Wichita State nor Alabama is likely to have its leading scorer at full strength for Tuesday night’s matchup.
But that might not be a problem for either school given the way their supporting players performed their last time out.
The 11th-ranked Shockers will try to improve on the best start in school history when they visit the Crimson Tide, who have won their last 15 regular-season home games.
Wichita State is 10-0 for the first time after Saturday’s 70-61 home victory over Tennessee. The Shockers won despite leading scorer Ron Baker (14.6 points per game) being limited by a left ankle injury suffered in Thursday’s practice.
Considered a game-time decision, Baker finished with eight points in 32 minutes.
“When it happened, there was no way I thought he was going to play today,” said Darius Carter, who had 11 points and 14 rebounds for his first double-double. “Seeing him go out there, we wanted to win for him.”
Baker is expected to play against the Crimson Tide (5-4).
“We’ll take it a day at a time,” he said. “It was pretty sore today. But I gave it my best and we got the win.”
With Baker slowed, junior guard Tekele Cotton took over in the second half, scoring all 19 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Cotton, who entered averaging 10.4 points, had a key block midway through the half to help ignite a 17-5 run that put the Shockers in control.
Saturday’s win and a five-point victory at Saint Louis on Dec. 1 are Wichita State’s only games decided by single digits. The Shockers limited Tennessee to 38.5 percent shooting, the fourth straight opponent they’ve held below 40.
Alabama improved to 5-0 at home with a 59-45 win over Charleston Southern on Saturday as Trevor Releford (16.4 ppg) was unavailable due to a hip injury.
“We anticipate him being available to play (Tuesday) barring any setbacks,” said coach Anthony Grant, who has guided Alabama to a 59-12 record in regular-season home games.
Though the Crimson Tide finished with a season-low point total in the starting point guard’s absence, sophomore Retin Obasohan elevated his game, recording career highs with 22 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
Rodney Cooper scored a season-high 16 after totaling 14 over his previous four games on 6-of-21 shooting. He’s averaging 6.6 points after posting 10.2 as a sophomore in 2012-13.
Alabama is outscoring teams at home by an average of 21.6 points while shooting 49.1 percent from the field. The Crimson Tide are winless in all other games while hitting 42.3 percent of their shots.
They’re 6-4 all-time at home against ranked non-conference opponents, with the last victory coming Dec. 30, 2003, over No. 18 Wisconsin.
Alabama owns a 3-2 all-time series edge, including a 70-60 victory in the most recent meeting in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 18, 2011. Releford was 2 for 6 from the field but went 11 of 12 from the free-throw line to finish with 15 points.