Terre Haute, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Wichita State Shockers will attempt to keep their perfect season intact on Wednesday night when they venture to the Hulman Center for a Missouri Valley Conference bout with the Indiana State Sycamores.
Wichita State added to its best start in school history on Saturday afternoon when it dismissed Evansville at home, 81-67, to improve to 23-0 overall and 10-0 in the MVC. After Arizona suffered its first loss over the weekend, the Shockers are one of just two undefeated teams left in the nation with No. 1 Syracuse, but they failed to climb in the rankings this week, holding firm at No. 4.
Indiana State appears to be the only team in the league that will have a chance to catch Wichita State in the standings, as it is 8-2 in the MVC, while every other team is 5-5 or worse. The Sycamores have won three of their last four, most recently downing Northern Iowa on Saturday (87-81), and are now 17-5 overall and a perfect 8-0 on their home floor.
The Shockers claimed a convincing 68-48 victory on Jan. 18 in the first meeting between these squads this season, giving them a 52-29 lead in the all- time series.
Wichita State's perfect season appeared in jeopardy as it fell behind by 15 early in the first half of its most recent game, but with the help of a 16-4 run to close out the frame, it went into halftime with a six-point lead and went on to win by 14. It shot 45.5 percent from the field on the afternoon, won the rebounding battle (40-29) and outscored Evansville at the foul line, 24-10. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker both poured in 14 points, with VanVleet adding seven rebounds and five assists as well. Cleanthony Early tallied 13 points and eight boards and Tekele Cotton chipped in 12 points.
The Shockers' offensive production this season has been solid, as they shoot 44.5 percent from the field for 74.7 ppg, but the biggest reason for their excellence has been due to their outstanding scoring defense, which ranks in the top-10 nationally in allowing a mere 59.5 ppg. They also hold comfortable advantages in the rebounding (+8.7) and turnover (+2.7) battles. Early is the catalyst with 16.2 ppg and 6.5 rpg, while adding nearly a block and a steal per contest. Baker (12.9 ppg), VanVleet (12.1 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.9) and Cotton (9.4 ppg) round out the balanced attack.
The Sycamores also faced an early deficit their last time out, falling behind by nine at the break at UNI, but after shooting just 40 percent from the field in the field half, it shot 54.5 percent in the second and drained 23-of-28 from the free-throw line after intermission as they took control of the game. All five starters finished in double figures, paced by 18 points and 13 rebounds from Khristian Smith. Dawon Cummings also netted 18, Jake Odum had 17 points and five assists and Justin Gant and Manny Arop scored 14 and 11, respectively.
Indiana State has performed well on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 47 percent from the field (including 38.3 percent from 3-point range) for 74.5 ppg, while allowing 68.8 ppg. The balanced effort last game was no fluke, as five players score in double figures on a nightly basis. Odum is the spark plug with 12.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 4.8 apg. Arop (11.5 ppg) and Cummings (11.2 ppg) have combined for 78 long-range buckets at greater than a 40 percent clip, while Smith (11.0 ppg) and Gant (11.0 ppg) can also be trusted for regular contributions.