Wichita St.-Indiana St. Preview
Only one game stands between Wichita State and a shot at the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title.
To be assured of that chance, though, the 11th-ranked Shockers need to win in a hostile road environment which has caused trouble across the conference as they face Indiana State on Wednesday night.
Wichita State (25-3, 15-1) has won six straight since suffering its only conference loss in two seasons, 70-54 at current-No. 10 Northern Iowa on Jan. 31. The Shockers can earn redemption Saturday when they host the Panthers - also 15-1 in conference play - and will control their own destiny for the outright regular-season MVC title with a win over the Sycamores (14-14, 10-6). However, if Wichita State is upset Wednesday, Northern Iowa can claim at least a share of the crown by defeating Evansville later in the night.
The Shockers made easy work of Indiana State on Feb. 11 in a 74-57 win, after which Sycamores coach Greg Lansing sounded as if his team wasn't capable of competing with them or the Panthers.
"Just a big difference between those two teams," Lansing said. "You're talking about a top-15 ranked team and a team that's trying to contend for a championship in the Missouri Valley with Northern Iowa, and we're not there yet."
The Sycamores, however, are 7-1 in conference home games - the only loss came to UNI - and 21-5 over the past three seasons. Two of those losses were by a combined 11 points to Wichita State, which has won six straight in Terre Haute.
Hot long-range shooting could spark an upset for the Sycamores, who lead the conference with 208 3-pointers made and are 10-3 when hitting at least 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Shockers allowed a combined 53.5 percent on 3-pointers in their three losses but held Indiana State to 3 of 13 two weeks ago.
Brenton Scott has converted a team-best 45.5 percent of his 3-point attempts after making 3 of 4 and scoring 17 points Saturday in the Sycamores' 78-58 win over Southern Illinois.
Wichita State's Ron Baker has made a conference-best 70 3-pointers, including one in 27 straight games. The reigning MVC player of the week had a season-low five points against the Sycamores but has since averaged 16.7 in the last three games, including 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in Sunday's 62-43 win over Evansville.
Fred VanVleet added 22 points and eight rebounds along with five assists, becoming the Shockers' career leader in that category with 431.
"He sets the record with a handful or more games left in our season as a junior. He's going to put that number so high," coach Gregg Marshall said. "I hope I can be the beneficiary. I hope one day I can have a point guard that breaks the number he puts up, because it's going to be incredible."
VanVleet had a game-high 21 points against the Sycamores earlier this month. He and Baker combined for only 14 in Wichita State's visit to Indiana State last season, and the then-No. 4 Shockers led by only three points with under a minute to play before escaping to win 65-58.