Terre Haute, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - With the Missouri Valley Conference regular season drawing to a close this weekend, the 11th-ranked Wichita State Shockers try to flex their muscles against the Indiana State Sycamores at the Hulman Center on Wednesday night.
Wichita State has entered the week tied with 10th-ranked Northern Iowa for the top spot in the MVC standings at 15-1, which leaves as many as eight possible scenarios that could play out over the next few days in order to decide the regular-season champion. Depending on the upcoming outcomes, WSU could be the outright champion or finish second in the standings.
The team is hoping to build on a six-game win streak that continued with a 62-43 thumping of Evansville on Sunday at home. Still, no matter what happens against Indiana State, it could all come down to the finale versus UNI at home on Saturday.
As for the Sycamores, they are third in the MVC with a mark of 10-6, but have no hope of moving up in the ranks. The team has been wildly inconsistent the last month, alternating wins and losses over the course of 10 games. Continuing that trend on Saturday, ISU crushed Southern Illinois at home by a score of 78-58.
The Shockers lead the all-time series by a 55-29 margin, thanks to a 74-57 romp over ISU in the first meeting of the season just two weeks ago. Winners of five in a row over Indiana State, the Shockers own a slight 19-18 edge in games played in Terre Haute.
The Wichita State defense went to work immediately against the Purple Aces, limiting them to a total of only four field goals in the first half and a mere 31.3 percent from the floor overall, which included a dismal 1-of-12 behind the 3-point line. Ron Baker, who was just named the MVC Player of the Week for the third time this season, logged a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, as he knocked down 4-of-9 shots behind the 3-point line. Fred VanVleet tacked on 22 points, eight boards and five assists, while Evan Wessel tallied 11 points for the victors.
Averaging more than 32 minutes per game on the season, Baker has all the qualifications to vie for the MVC Player of the Year, if not for the fact that his closest competition is teammate VanVleet. Baker is averaging a team-best 15.6 ppg, thanks to an impressive 41.4 percent shooting behind the 3-point line. He also has 62 assists and 34 steals, to go along with 4.4 rpg, which is where VanVleet is on the glass. VanVleet doesn't generally come up with outrageous scoring totals (12.4 ppg) but that's only because he is more focused on getting the rest of the Shockers involved in the action with an impressive 149 assists, against just 46 turnovers.
After a grueling non-conference schedule the Sycamores have managed to make themselves into a real competitive force in the MVC, even with UNI and WSU stealing all the headlines. Against Southern Illinois, the team made good on 49.1 percent from the floor, including 9-of-18 behind the 3-point line, as Brenton Scott tallied a team-best 17 points on an impressive 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Justin Gant and Devonte Brown both had a hand in lifting the program with 16 and 10 points, respectively, the latter tying for the team high with five assists as well.
In conference action, Indiana State is putting up a modest 68.2 ppg as it connects on 41.4 percent behind the 3-point line, but at the same time the Sycamores are giving up 65.5 ppg based on 39.5 percent accuracy on the perimeter by the opponents. Brown, who leads the group with 58 assists in those 16 league bouts, is also the leading scorer with 12.9 ppg, while Scott checks in with 12.5 ppg thanks to his sensational 51.4 percent effort beyond the arc, which happens to be better than his field goal shooting overall at only 46.1 percent.