Ramblers hit road seeking upset of fourth-ranked Shockers

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Updated: 1/28 10:36 am

Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Wichita State Shockers will try to continue their dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference when they tangle with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers at Charles Koch Arena on Tuesday night.

Wichita State has not only been overwhelming conference foes, but all foes as it is a perfect 21-0 on the season. The impressive start has lifted the Shockers to No. 4 in the AP Top-25, the highest ranking for the program since the 1981-82 season when it reached the No. 2 spot. The Shockers will get a chance to improve on their 12-0 home record next time out against Evansville.

On the other side, Loyola-Chicago is coming off a 93-87 overtime win versus Northern Iowa. The victory ended a two-game skid for the Ramblers, who are just 8-12 overall, with eight losses in as many road tests. They will visit Southern Illinois in their next bout.

Loyola is in its first season in the MVC and is getting its first shot at Wichita State since suffering a 75-59 loss back during the 1989-90 season. The Shockers lead the all-time series, 18-9.

The Ramblers trailed for the entire second half against Northern Iowa, but Christian Thomas sank a pair of free throws with 18 seconds to play, which tied the game and forced overtime. Loyola went 4-of-6 from the floor and 7- of-8 at the stripe in the extra session to collect the win.

Despite shooting the best percentage in the MVC (.486), the Ramblers are only eighth in the league in scoring (67.8 ppg). They also rank near the bottom in rebounding (30.6 ppg), although they do solid work on defense, letting up just 67.2 ppg on 44 percent shooting. Milton Doyle (16 ppg, 3.4 apg) is the team's leading scorer, and he poured in a game-high 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Northern Iowa. Thomas (14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the clear second option, and the team's best rebounder. In fact, he is the only player on the roster clearing more than 4.2 boards per tilt. Jeff White (10.9 ppg) tallied 14 points and five assists against the Panthers.

Wichita State's most recent triumph came this past Saturday, when it overcame Drake in a 78-61 final. The Shockers shot 52.7 percent from the floor, while outscoring the Bulldogs in the paint (32-10) and off turnovers (23-13). Cleanthony Early scored 19 points to lead the way.

The Shockers have been dominant at both ends of the floor this season, ranking first in the MVC in scoring (75.3 ppg), while holding foes to 59.9 ppg on 39.1 percent shooting. Nationally, they are 11th and 25th, respectively, in scoring defense and opponent field goal percentage. Early (16 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is the team's leader, both in scoring and rebounding. He is also fifth in the conference in each category. Meanwhile, Ron Baker (13.1 ppg), Fred Van Vleet (12.5 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Tekele Cotton (9.4 ppg) form an impressive backcourt trio. Van Vleet leads the MVC in assists. Baker had 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting against Drake.

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