Carbondale, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Following an undefeated run through non- league play, the eighth-ranked Wichita State Shockers open Missouri Valley Conference action on Thursday night on the road against the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Wichita State is a perfect 13-0, having won 10 games by double figures. The Shockers have built their impressive resume' mostly off convincing wins over inferior opponents, although they do have victories over BYU, Saint Louis, Tennessee and Alabama. The consensus pick in the preseason to the win the MVC, Wichita State took down visiting Davidson last Sunday, 81-70.
Southern Illinois hasn't had nearly the early success its counterpart has, but the team has won 12 of its last 14 MVC home openers, and recently had a modest two-game win streak stopped last Sunday in a 67-65 loss at Miami-Ohio. The Salukis played that game without head coach Barry Hinson, who took some time away to be with his family following the unexpected death of his son-in-law. He is back with the team now, as it tries to win for the fourth time in six home dates this season.
SIU owns a 48-38 lead in the all-time series with WSU, and that includes a 64-62 upset of the then 22nd-ranked Shockers last February.
Boasting four players who average double figures in the scoring column, Wichita State has excelled in just about every area it can through the first two months of the season. The Shockers own significant margins in scoring (+15.3), rebounding (+8.5) and turnovers (+3.7), while outshooting the opposition from every spot on the court. Cleanthony Early (16.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) leads the team in both scoring and rebounding, and he is coming off a double- double performance in the recent win over Davidson as he tallied 24 points and 10 boards. Ron Baker, the team's second-leading scorer on the season with 14.2 ppg, hit for 15 against the Wildcats, thanks to his 12-of-14 showing at the free-throw line. Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton rounded out the unit's double-digit scorers with 13 and 10 points, respectively. WSU used a massive 28-11 edge in points from the charity stripe to keep their unblemished mark intact. Davidson made good on 11-of-28 3-point attempts (.393), but turned the ball over 15 times while being doubled up in points in the paint, 28-14.
Southern Illinois doesn't use a balanced attack the way Wichita State does, instead it relies on pretty much one guy to get the job done as Desmar Jackson is averaging 20.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Jackson is one of only 14 players in the country to average more than 20 points and shoot 48 percent or better from the field. Help comes from Jalen Pendleton and Anthony Beane, but their respective averages of 12.3 and 11.8 ppg don't cause many opposing coaches sleepless nights trying to figure out how to stop them. The Salukis are scoring just a tad bit more than they allow (69.2 to 68.9 ppg), despite shooting 47.3 percent from the field. That's because they have converted only 28.7 percent of their 3-point tries. Jackson was once again high man for SIU in the narrow loss at Miami last time out, as he tallied 27 points and nine rebounds, but the team as a whole went just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc, 6-of-8 at the foul line, and committed 14 turnovers. Pendleton and Beane chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the losing effort.