Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 15th-ranked Wichita State Shockers go in search of their 22nd consecutive Missouri Valley Conference victory, as they pull into the Windy City to do battle with the upstart Ramblers of Loyola- Chicago on Sunday.
Wichita State enters this contest sporting a 13-2 overall record, which includes a 3-0 mark in MVC play. The Shockers have topped the likes of Drake, Illinois State and Bradley to erase the bad taste of only their second loss of the season, a 60-54 decision against George Washington in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Christmas Day.
Loyola-Chicago has surprised many through the first two months of the season, as the team has staked its claim to a 12-3 record. It is the best start for the Ramblers since the 1965-66 campaign, and they recently notched their first-ever road win against a MVC opponent by slipping past Evansville on Wednesday, 71-70. That triumph was the team's eighth in the last nine games overall.
Wichita State owns a 20-9 lead in the all-time series with Loyola, and the Shockers won both meetings last season.
Wichita State routed Bradley on Wednesday, 63-43, as Darius Carter scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds, Ron Baker pitched in with 12 points and Shaquille Morris tallied 10 points off the bench. Fred VanVleet dished out nine assists for the Shockers who made good on 43.1 percent of their field goal attempts despite missing nine of their 15 3-point attempts. The team's defensive effort permitted the Braves just 34.8 percent success from the floor, which included a woeful 4-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. WSU logged a 41-28 rebounding advantage, while outscoring Bradley in the paint, 30-16.
For a team that averages 72.7 ppg while allowing only 59.1 ppg, Baker leads the way with his 16.6 ppg, while Carter and VanVleet are close behind with 12.0 and 11.1 ppg, respectively. Baker is a 40.4 percent shooter from the perimeter, while Carter pulls down a team-best 6.2 rpg, and VanVleet hands out 5.5 apg. Tekele Cotton (9.6 ppg) is another solid contributor for Wichita State, which is beating foes on the glass by 6.1 rpg, while goading them into more than 14 turnovers per outing.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the recent clash between Loyola and Evansville, but the Ramblers nailed eight 3-pointers to only one for the Purple Aces. Christian Thomas tallied 16 points to pace the visitors, while Milton Doyle and Donte Ingram chipped in with 13 points apiece. Doyle added five assists to his overall stat line.
Loyola's strength this season has been its ability to curtail the scoring efforts of its opponents, the team yielding a mere 60.2 ppg. Foes are converting only 28.4 percent of their 3-point tries, while the Ramblers are knocking them down at a 39.8 percent clip. Thomas and Doyle are the only double-digit scorers for the Ramblers, but their respective averages of 13.1 and 12.7 ppg aren't likely to scare anyone. As a result, the team nets only 67 ppg, and it currently sits in the red in both rebounding (-0.3) and turnover (-0.4) margin.