The top two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference collide at the Charles Koch Arena, as the Wichita State Shockers set their sights on halting the huge wave of momentum brought in by the 12th- ranked Creighton Bluejays.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays are once again one of the premiere mid-major programs in the country and come into this contest with 17 victories against just one defeat. That loss took place back on Nov. 28 against Boise State. Creighton has strung together 11 straight wins since then, including a perfect 6-0 mark in conference play. The Bluejays kept their flawless league record intact with this week's 79-68 win at home over Northern Iowa.
Although Creighton has enjoyed many of the headlines in the MVC, Gregg Marshall's Shockers have been right behind every step of the way. Wichita State has already found itself in the top-25 this year, and currently sports a 16-2 overall record. The Shockers fell at Evansville last weekend, but moved to 5-1 in league play three days later with a 74-62 win over Illinois State.
Creighton maintains a 53-44 advantage in the all-time series with Wichita State.
The Bluejays shot a sterling .554 from the field against Northern Iowa and were led once again in the scoring column by All-American Doug McDermott, who finished with a game-high 31 points. Guards Austin Chatman and Grant Gibbs provided scoring help in the win with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
McDermott is a dynamic player headed toward All-American honors again. The 6- foot-8 senior can do it all, shooting .568 from the floor, including .507 from behind the arc (38-of-75), while ranking second nationally in scoring (24.0 ppg) and first on the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg). Center Greg Echenique, who is converting 66.4 percent of the time from the floor, gives McDermott help in the frontcourt with 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Ethan Wragge is the team's first option off the bench with 9.2 ppg. Overall, Creighton is the top team in the nation in field-goal percentage (.524) and 3-point accuracy (.453).
Wichita State found its way back into the win column with a balanced effort against Illinois State last time out. The team shot .466 from the floor and converted 8-of-18 from 3-point range, as five Shockers finished in double figures. Cleanthony Early led the way with 16 points. Demetric Williams added 14 points to the cause, followed by Jake White (11 pts), Malcolm Armstead (10 pts) and Nick Wiggins (10 pts).
The Shockers are best suited for a slower pace, allowing the team's defensive tenacity to start to take over. Wichita State is one of the better teams in the nation in terms of scoring defense (59.9 ppg), as they hold foes under 40 percent shooting (.394). In addition, WSU has had great success on the boards, sporting a +8.6 rebounding margin. Early is the top offensive weapon at Marshall's disposal, leading Wichita State with 15.5 ppg. Carl Hall is next in line at 12.8 ppg and is the team's top inside presence with 7.8 rpg. Armstead leads the team in assists (67) and steals (37), while adding 9.2 ppg.