Sports

Braves seek upset of 15th-ranked Shockers

Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Now ranked 15th in the nation, the Wichita State Shockers play their second Missouri Valley Conference home game on Wednesday when they host the Bradley Braves at Charles Koch Arena.

Since registering their second loss of the season, a 60-54 setback against George Washington in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, the Shockers have delivered a pair of wins, both in conference play. On New Year's Eve, the program dismissed Drake on the road in a 66-58 final, and on Sunday WSU took care of visiting Illinois State, 70-62.

Wichita State has won eight of its last nine outings overall.

As for the Braves, they have found wins quite hard to come by. They have won back-to-back games only one time, having taken out North Carolina A&T and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in late November. Since then the program has won a total of just four games in 11 opportunities.

However, the good news for the Braves is that they won their most recent outing over the weekend, a 63-44 thrashing of Southern Illinois at home, marking their second victory in the last three contests.

Bradley leads the all-time series by a count of 71-64, but the Shockers are 9-2 in Koch Arena versus the Braves and have won nine straight overall.

The Braves saw a chance to pounce on SIU at Carver Arena and took it on Saturday evening, limiting the Salukis to only 16-of-48 shooting from the floor and forcing the visitors to miss all 14 chances behind the 3-point line. Omari Grier and Auston Barnes delivered 14 points apiece for Bradley, while Josh Cunningham tallied seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds for a Braves squad that also forced 16 turnovers.

One of the main reasons why wins are harder and harder to come by these days for the Braves is the injury to leading scorer Warren Jones (14.6 ppg). With a stress fracture in his foot, Jones has played in only eight games and was a solid contributor on offense, despite his 35.2 percent shooting from the floor. Tramique Sutherland, who has played in just six games, checks in as the second-leading scorer with 13.0 ppg but he too has had problems finding the basket with just 37.3 percent accuracy. As a team, Bradley comes in hitting just 38.5 percent from the floor, resulting in 59.3 ppg.

Illinois State put up a fight against the Shockers over the weekend, but in the end the Redbirds were simply overmatched. Except for Evan Wessel who finished with a mere three points in 28 minutes of action, every starter for Wichita State ended up in double figures, led by Ron Baker with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. Darius Carter pitched in 14 points and both Tekele Cotton and Fred VanVleet 12 apiece, the latter adding six rebounds, six assists and a stellar inbounds pass to Cotton for a highlight dunk.

Baker, who was just named the MVC Player of the Week for the second time this season, leads the Shockers with 16.9 ppg based on his 40.7 percent shooting beyond the arc. Carter adds 11.5 ppg and 6.1 rpg, although those numbers still don't make up for a mere six assists and 60.0 percent effort at the free-throw line. VanVleet and Cotton are responsible for 11.4 and 10.1 ppg, respectively, the former also pacing the group with 73 assists and 28 steals in an effort to keep WSU with a scoring advantage of 13.2 ppg.