Bears host sixth-ranked Shockers in MVC fracas

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Updated: 1/11 11:39 am

Springfield, MO ( - The sixth-ranked Wichita State Shockers face one of their toughest tests to date, as they put their unblemished record on the line in Saturday's Missouri Valley Conference clash with the Missouri State Bears.

Wichita State is one of only five teams left at the Division I level still without a loss, as the team is 16-0 overall and 3-0 in conference. The Shockers recently topped visiting Illinois State, 66-47, and they now take to the road for this bout before returning home for a pair against Bradley and Indiana State in the next week.

Missouri State has also been impressive through the first two months of the season, recording a 12-3 mark, which includes a 2-1 league ledger. The Bears have won four of their last five games, with the one setback in that stretch coming at Loyola-Chicago (89-57) last Sunday. The team bounced back by posting a 68-65 win at Bradley three days later, and is putting its perfect 8-0 home record on the line tonight. Wichita State is the highest ranked team the Bears have every hosted.

Wichita State owns a 32-30 advantage in the all-time series with Missouri State, and the Shockers have won the last five meetings.

Simply put, you don't get to be undefeated this late in the season if you aren't getting it done in nearly all facets of the game. Wichita State is averaging 76.3 ppg while allowing just 60.9 ppg, and they are outshooting foes (.456 to .400), outrebounding them (39.2 to 31.4 rpg), and they are +3.9 in turnover differential. The Shockers boast four double-digit scorers among the starting five, led by Cleanthony Early and his 16.3 ppg. Early also spearheads the effort on the glass with 6.4 rpg, while Fred VanVleet chips in with 12.0 ppg while handing out a club-best 5.4 apg.

The Shockers didn't play very well in their recent bout with Illinois State, but it's a true testament to the team's overall talent and desire as it still prevailed with relative ease. Early and Ron Baker scored 11 points apiece to pace the unit, while VanVleet dished out 10 assists. WSU shot only 41.1 percent from the floor, but nailed nine 3-pointers while holding the Redbirds to just 32.7 percent efficiency, which included misses on 19 of their 26 long- range launches.

Balance is the key for Missouri State, which despite having a pair of double- digit scorers in Marcus Marshall (14.3 ppg) and Jarmar Gulley (13.7 ppg), is putting up 73.7 ppg on typical shooting efforts of .435 overall and .363 from beyond the arc. Seven other players average between 5.1 and 7.6 ppg, and the Bears also use more than 13 forced turnovers per outing to help overcome any shortcoming they may have themselves.

Gulley and Marshall were once again the top performers for the Bears in their recent win over Bradley, as the two scored 26 and 20 points, respectively, combining to go 7-of-14 from 3-point range. No other player tallied more than eight points for Missouri State, which made good on 51.1 percent of its total shots while holding the Braves to 43.8 percent. The Bears won the game despite being outrebounded by a 35-22 margin.

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