Seton Hall-Wichita St. Preview
All appears right with Wichita State after impressively bouncing back from its first regular-season loss since March 2013. The Shockers would likely feel even better if they follow that victory by knocking Seton Hall from the ranks of the unbeaten Tuesday night.
Wichita State (5-1) showed no ill-effects from having its 35-game regular-season winning streak snapped at Utah, routing Saint Louis 81-52 on Saturday. While the loss cost the Shockers three spots in the most recent AP poll as they dropped to 11th, the players took their film sessions to heart and responded with an improved effort.
"I think watching film of our loss showed us a lot of little things we didn't do at Utah," said Evan Wessel, who scored a career-high 15 points. "Good defense and blocking out, things like that. I don't think we did too many of those little things wrong in this game."
The points allowed were a season low for Wichita State, which has surrendered 57 or fewer in each of its five wins.
Ron Baker led the Shockers with 18 points and is part of a four-guard starting lineup for Gregg Marshall, but the coach may have found a potent 1-2 frontcourt punch. Freshman Rauno Nurger had a season-high 15 points in 15 minutes while replacing foul-plagued Darius Carter, who scored just four after reaching double figures in four straight.
"He's a guy we always knew could shoot it," Marshall said of Nurger, who had scored only 11 in the previous five games. "I hope this gives him some more confidence."
Wichita State carries a 21-game home winning streak into this contest and a 29-game run at home over non-conference opponents.
Seton Hall (7-0) is one of 11 remaining unbeaten teams in Division I and off to its best start since winning its first eight games of 2009-10. The Pirates are coming off their best effort of the season, an 81-54 pounding of intrastate rival Rutgers on Saturday as Isiah Whitehead went 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored a season-high 25 points.
"My shot was falling," said Whitehead, who finished 9 for 15 from the floor. "So I kept firing and my teammates kept finding me."
The highly touted freshman has averaged 17.5 points over his last four games after totaling 18 on 7-of-30 shooting in his first three collegiate games.
Though Whitehead has found his groove, coach Kevin Willard realizes his team is taking a huge step up in caliber of opponent by heading into the heartland.
"The schedule was designed to get them ready for Big East play," he said. "Definitely going to face some adversity Tuesday night (at Wichita State). ... It's as tough a home-court (advantage as there is in the nation).
"... They're going to get punched in the mouth Tuesday night."
Sterling Gibbs is averaging a team-high 17.3 points, including a 40-point effort two weeks ago against Illinois State, and has made 16 of 30 from beyond the arc. The Gibbs-Whitehead backcourt will be strongly challenged by Baker (17.8 ppg) and Fred VanVleet (12.5), who spearhead a Shockers defense limiting opponents to 39.5 percent shooting and forcing 15.7 turnovers per game.
The only previous meeting was an 86-66 rout by Wichita State in the first round of the 2006 NCAA tournament.