Peoria, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 16th-ranked Wichita State Shockers try to bounce back from their first Missouri Valley Conference loss in nearly two years, as they collide with the Bradley Braves at Carver Arena on Wednesday night.
The Shockers, who ran the table during the 2013-14 regular season and was 9-0 through the first nine conference games of this season, ran into a pesky Northern Iowa squad over the weekend and came up short at the McLeod Center, 70-54. The loss was just the third on the season for Wichita State, which had won 27 straight MVC bouts prior to being taken down by the Panthers.
While the Shockers entered the week still tied for first place in the MVC with Northern Iowa, Bradley is at the other end of the spectrum with just two league victories in 10 opportunities, tied with Southern Illinois for last place. The team with the worst overall record among league programs, the Braves are coming off a 64-58 loss at Indiana State over the weekend.
Bradley, which leads the all-time series by a count of 71-65, has now lost two straight and seven of the last eight outings on the campaign overall. The Braves fell in the first meeting between these teams back on Jan. 7 by a final of 63-43 on the road.
The Shockers tried to keep up with Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls by letting loose with 24 shots behind the 3-point line, but the visitors made only five of those opportunities, en route to the double-digit setback. Fred VanVleet managed to put up 18 points for the visitors, but he shot only 3-of-10 from the field and turned the ball over four times. Ron Baker tacked on 12 points, but he too had trouble shooting the ball from the floor (4-of-12), and particularly behind the 3-point line (2-of-10).
Over the course of 10 conference outings, Baker has stepped up to become the top scorer for the Shockers with his 15.2 ppg, shooting a solid 40.4 percent from 3-point range. Darius Carter checks in with 11.8 ppg, hitting field goals at a 50.6 percent clip, followed by VanVleet who is not only responsible for 11.7 ppg, but also a team-best 54 assists. Tekele Cotton's 10.2 ppg helps push the Shockers to 65.6 ppg, a number that would be sketchy if not for the fact that the WSU defense has held opponents to only 52.2 ppg.
Less than seven minutes into the meeting with Indiana State, the Braves led by nine points and clung to a three-point edge at the break before coming up lame on defense over the final 20 minutes of action. Bradley allowed the Sycamores to knock down 56.0 percent from the floor in the second half, 6-of-13 beyond the arc, en route to the six-point decision.
Except for Mike Shaw who tallied just two points, every starter scored in double figures for the Braves, beginning with Tramique Sutherland with 17 points, Anthony Fields, Auston Barnes and Josh Cunningham all tallied 11 points, the latter also pulling down a game-high nine rebounds when he wasn't shooting 1-of-5 beyond the arc.
Warren Jones, who missed the last game for the Braves and was also out of action earlier in the season due to injury, is the top scorer for the program in MVC play with his 13.0 ppg, although he has shot just 39.7 percent from the floor in those six league bouts. Cunningham checks in with 10.1 ppg and 9.0 rpg as the bullish player in the paint the Braves so desperately need as they generate only 57.0 ppg, but surrender 64.4 ppg.