Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - With their perfect record still in tact, the fourth-ranked Wichita State Shockers entertain the Southern Illinois Salukis in a Missouri Valley Conference clash at Charles Koch Arena on Tuesday night.
Wichita State's dominance has been one of the prevailing storylines this season, with the Shockers owning a perfect 25-0 mark. They are one of only two teams left in the country without a loss, the other being top-ranked Syracuse. They are also an unblemished 12-0 in league play, owning a three-game lead over second-place Indiana State, which they beat in a 65-58 final last week. Trips to Evansville and Loyola-Chicago are next on the docket for the Shockers.
Southern Illinois has been far below the incredible pace set by its counterpart in this contest. The Salukis are just 10-15 overall, with as many wins as losses in conference (6-6). However, they have won four straight as they begin this difficult two-game road trek, which wraps up against Indiana State on Saturday.
If the Salukis hope to pull off an incredible upset, a lack of familiarity between these squads won't be an advantage. The Salukis fell to the Shockers, 82-67, on their home floor earlier this season. Wichita State has won four of the last five meetings, although Southern Illinois leads the all-time series, 48-39.
Southern Illinois was dominant, especially in the second half, in its 72-54 win over Missouri State last time out. The Salukis connected on 48.1 percent of their shots from the floor, while outscoring the Bears 27-6 from 3-point range. Anthony Beane led the way, draining four 3-pointes and tallying a game- high 26 points.
Despite efficient shooting this season (.469), the Salukis have not been a very productive scoring team, netting just 68.2 ppg. That mark ranks eighth in the MVC. Desmar Jackson (19.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) paces the team as the leading scorer while also topping the MVC in steals. He had only 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting against Missouri State and he also failed to record a single steal. Beane (13 ppg) is another solid scorer, while Jalen Pendleton (10 ppg) provides a spark off the bench. Like Jackson, Pendleton struggled against Missouri State, netting eight points on 3-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Tekele Cotton scored 18 points to lead five players in double figures for Wichita State in its 82-73 win over Northern Iowa on Saturday. The Shockers knocked down 54.2 percent of their shots from the field on the road, making up for an uncharacteristic 19-9 scoring deficit off turnovers.
No team in the MVC is scoring as well as Wichita State (74.6 ppg) this season, even though the Shockers are only seventh in the league in field goal percentage (.447). Strong work on the boards helps, with the squad ranking 17th nationally in rebounds (39.6 rpg). Suffocating defense is also a key component of the Shockers' success. They allow only 60 ppg on 39.2 percent shooting. Cleanthony Early (16.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) leads the team in scoring and rebounding, while Ron Baker (12.6 ppg) and Fred VanVleet (12 ppg, 5.2 apg) are strong producers in the backcourt.