Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Their amazing run of success in the Missouri Valley Conference may have come to an end last week, but still the 16th-ranked Wichita State Shockers are a team to contend with as they host the Missouri State Bears on Saturday.
The Shockers, who ran the table in 2013-14 before losing in the NCAA Tournament to the Kentucky Wildcats, appeared to be on their way to another undefeated MVC slate in 2014-15. However, the team ran up against a pesky Northern Iowa group last weekend and suffered a 70-54 loss in the first MVC meeting between a pair of nationally-ranked programs in years.
The team managed to bounce back on Wednesday night, but the 62-59 victory against Bradley on the road was still a bit too close for comfort for a group that has now won 10 of the last 11 outings and remains tied with the Panthers for the top spot in the league standings at 10-1.
The Bears are much further down in the standings entering the weekend, showing just three wins in 11 opportunities. The team was able to snap a seven-game slide over the weekend with a 52-46 triumph over Southern Illinois at home at JQH Arena, but then fell right back into the loss column on Wednesday night, 53-50, versus Loyola-Chicago.
The Shockers blew the doors over Missouri State in the first meeting of the season last month, 76-53, notching their 13th straight conference road win at the time. Wichita State left no doubt as it converted a stellar 11-of-19 behind the 3-point line in the meeting.
As a result of the first win in the season series, the Shockers are now ahead by a count of 36-30 overall.
Missouri State dug itself a hole in the first half against the Ramblers by converting just eight field goals and missing all six chances behind the 3- point line. The team shot much better in the second half, hitting at a 51.9 percent clip from the floor, but by then it was too little, too late. Gavin Thurman came off the bench to tally 15 points, followed by Camyn Boone with 13 points, to go along with a team-best seven rebounds in yet another league loss.
Marcus Marshall had been the leading scorer for the Bears with his 19.5 ppg, one of the tops scorers in the MVC in fact, but he has been out of the lineup since about midway through last month due to personal reasons. Without him in the lineup the Bears don't have a single, active double-digit scorer to lean on. Austin Ruder leads the potential threats with 8.1 ppg, although he has shot only 34.2 percent from the floor, while Boone checks in with 8.0 ppg with his 58.3 percent accuracy from the field.
WSU was nearly shocked by Bradley at Carver Arena three nights ago when, after leading by as many as 17 points late in the first half, had to hold on down the stretch for the three-point victory. The Shockers made good on 58.3 percent from the field through the first 20 minutes of action, and then went in the tank with just six total field goals after intermission.
Ron Baker and his 3-of-4 shooting behind the 3-point line, leading to 14 points, helped the Shockers to hold on. Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter both dropped in 10 points, the former clearing seven rebounds and handing out four assists, while the latter was on the floor for a total of only 16 minutes before fouling out.
Baker paces the program on offense with 15.9 ppg, doing a good portion of his damage out on the perimeter where he has converted 41.1 percent of his shot attempts. Carter checks in with 11.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg, followed by Fred VanVleet with not just 11.5 ppg but also 122 assists over the course of 23 starts as the team outscores the competition by more than 13.0 ppg.