Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked team in the nation leaves campus to play a home date at INTRUST Bank Arena as the Wichita State Shockers host the Saint Louis Billikens on Saturday.
The Shockers began this season with four straight victories, all of them coming by at least 15 points, but earlier this week the team visited Utah and was turned away in overtime, 69-68. Last season the Shockers went undefeated through the regular season and the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before losing their first and only game of the campaign versus Kentucky (78-76) in the NCAA Tournament.
As for the Billikens, they've had some easy targets on the schedule early on, but they also proved there are no guarantees in college basketball as they bowed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (62-56) a few weeks ago in tournament play. More recently, the team posted an 80-48 rout of Rockhurst on Tuesday at home.
While the Shockers are the bigger name in college basketball these days, the all-time series still favors Saint Louis by a 41-20 margin. However, the last two meetings have resulted in WSU wins, the latest of those being a 70-65 final last season at Chaifetz Arena.
The defense by the Billikens held Rockhurst to just 19 made field goals and forced 22 turnovers, creating a comfortable 32-point margin of victory in the process earlier this week. Going to the bench early, Saint Louis was led by reserve Miles Reynolds in scoring with 14 points, followed by Milik Yarbrough with 12, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Ash Yacoubou led the starters with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Davell Roby pitched in with 10 points in 18 minutes off the bench.
On a team that doesn't score many points, Austin McBroom is the lone double- digit scorer for the Billikens with his 13.1 ppg. Second on the unit with 12 assists, McBroom is actually shooting better behind the 3-point line (.474) than he is the field overall (.392) through seven games. The team has made good on a collective 41.1 percent from the floor in the early going this season which, surprisingly, is below the opposition's collective 42.3 percent currently.
Against a Top-25 program in Utah, the Shockers appeared to be well on their way to a comfortable victory at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday night as they opened the meeting on a 10-0 run, but the lead was reduced to just four points at intermission. Wichita State not only saw the lead erased completely in the second half, the team found itself trailing by 11 points before making things interesting in the final moments of regulation when they allowed a two-point lead slip away.
In the extra session Delon Wright put the Utes up by a point on a jumper with 14 seconds left, but missed shots by Fred VanVleet and Evan Wessel left WSU facing its first loss of the campaign. VanVleet finished the meeting with 13 points, but shot only 5-of-19 from the floor, including 2-of-10 behind the 3- point line, while Ron Baker tallied 15 points and Tekele Cotton 14 in the setback.
On a squad putting up a solid 78.0 ppg, while limiting the opposition to 58.2 ppg, the Shockers are led by Baker with his 17.8 ppg. VanVleet comes in second with 13.4 ppg, even though he is now hitting his field goal attempts at a mere 37.1 percent and is a mere 20.8 percent accurate beyond the arc. However, it is important to have VanVleet on the court as much as possible since he is the team leader with 24 assists and 14 steals.