Carbondale, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in the Missouri Valley Conference clash at SIU Arena on Tuesday night, as the 13th-ranked Wichita State Shockers drop in on the Southern Illinois Salukis.
The Shockers enter the week tied with Northern Iowa for the top spot in the MVC at 13-1, while Southern Illinois is tied with both Missouri State and Bradley for the basement at a mere 3-11. The Salukis have a better overall record than both the Bears and Braves, but still it is all about conference play at this point.
Unfortunately, over the weekend the Salukis came up short against Evansville at home, 72-64, marking their second straight loss and the sixth in the last seven tries. The Purple Aces swept the season series from SIU for the first time since 1998.
As for Wichita State, it won for the fourth straight time and 13th time in the last 14 outings on Valentine's Day, thanks to a 68-62 triumph over Illinois State at Redbird Arena.
The Shockers won the first meeting of the season with Southern Illinois last month at home by a score of 67-55, as Darius Carter tallied a career-high 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the floor. WSU survived a mere 2-of-12 effort behind the 3-point line by limiting the visitors to only 2-of-9 on the outside and 39.3 percent from the floor overall.
Wichita State has swept the season series with Southern Illinois in three of the last five seasons but still trails, 48-41, all-time.
The Shockers scored the first points of the game against Illinois State, but the visitors won by only six points due to a mere 36.7 percent shooting from the floor, including 5-of-19 behind the 3-point line. Ron Baker accounted for a game-high 19 points, followed by Fred VanVleet and Evan Wessel with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Tekele Cotton, who shot only 3-of-10 from the floor, came up a point shy of a double-double with his game-high 10 rebounds.
Baker continues to pace the program in scoring on the season with 15.6 ppg, shooting an impressive 41.0 percent behind the 3-point line during his 26 starts. VanVleet, who was named the MVC Co-Player of the Week along with UNI's Seth Tuttle, is second in the scoring department with 12.0 ppg and is first with both 140 assists and 47 steals. What makes his assist total so remarkable is that he has turned the ball over a mere 40 times, giving him one of the best assist-to-turnover ratio in recent memory for someone who has been on such a successful team.
SIU managed to produce a 31-26 advantage on the glass, ripping down 14 offensive rebounds to just six for Evansville in the last outing, yet it was the Purple Aces who generated a 38-20 scoring advantage in the paint, en route to the eight-point victory. All but one of the starters for the Salukis finished in double figures, as Jordan Carolina notched both 13 points and a game-high 15 boards, followed by Deion Lavender, Tyler Smithpeters and Anthony Beane with 11 points apiece.
As one of the lowest-scoring teams in the conference, producing only 56.4 ppg versus the rest of the Missouri Valley, Southern Illinois has been making it rather easy for opponents to pick up some wins against them. Beane has managed to generate 13.5 ppg as the top overall scorer, but he has done so by shooting only 35.2 percent from the floor and a miserable 27.4 percent behind the 3- point line. Caroline is now up to 10.0 ppg and has pulled down a team-best 6.4 rpg, but it is his 65.7 percent accuracy at the free-throw line that is lacking.