Wichita, KS – The 24th-ranked Wichita State Shockers put found status as Missouri Valley Conference front-runner on the line Wednesday as Missouri State comes to town for a league showdown at Charles Koch Arena.
Wichita State gave the rest of the MVC notice Saturday with a sound 89-68 thumping of then No. 17 Creighton, now two games back of the first-place Shockers. WSU went into Omaha and dominated, shooting 58.2 percent from the field and making half of its 16 three-point attempts. The Shockers won the battle on the glass, 37-23, and held the Bluejays to 40.4 percent shooting to earn a fourth straight win and hand Creighton its third consecutive defeat. WSU used an early 11-0 run to take control and pushed its lead to as many as 24 as Joe Ragland scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Ben Smith matched a career high by netting 22 for the visitors, while Demetric Williams and Toure Murry each chipped in 11 points. Williams went 7-for-7 from the foul line, part of a perfect 17-for-17 performance at the stripe for the Shockers, who have won 12 of 13 games overall and now stand at 13-2 in the MVC.
Missouri State buckled down to hold off visiting Bradley Sunday for a 64-53 victory, its third straight and fourth in five games. The Bears found themselves trailing approaching the midpoint of the second half before setting off on a game-altering 14-4 run over nine minutes to break things wide open. MSU then iced the win at the foul line, going 6-for-6 inside the final minute to claim sole possession of third place in the conference standings at 9-6. Anthony Downing collected 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead the effort while Caleb Patterson came up with 14 points off the bench. Kyle Weems added 11 points as MSU managed to overcome an off-night shooting (36.4 percent). Bradley was held to 29.8 percent shooting.
Wichita State defeated the Bears, 74-67, February 1st in Springfield after being swept in last year's season series. The Shockers still trail in the all- time series by a 30-28 count but are a stout 19-6 in Wichita versus MSU.
The Bears possess one of the conference's top scorers in Weems, who posts 16.0 ppg alongside a team-best 7.2 rebounds per game. The senior also paces the club in three-point shooting with 52 on 41.6 percent shooting. Missouri State suffers a bit in scoring balance, but features four players averaging double figures. Patterson stands second to Weems at 13.0 ppg while Downing and Jarmar Gulley post 11.0 and 10.3-point averages. Downing also chips in with 35 threes on 34.0 percent shooting while Gulley adds a solid 5.7 rpg to the mix. Overall, the Bears average 66.9 ppg and hit at a respectable 44.4 percent from the field. An already tough MSU defense has clamped down recently and now holds opponents to a league-low 61.6 ppg and 39.6 percent shooting. The Bears hold down a decent 34.7-33.7 overall edge in rebounding.
The Shockers are as effective as any team in the country with their unique blend of offense paired alongside a stingy defense. WSU has the seventh-best scoring margin in the country at plus-15.3 and stands at or near the top of nearly every notable statistical category in the conference. Overall, the Shockers throw down 78.3 ppg and shoot 48.4 percent from the field, second to only Creighton on both counts. Wichita State's defense stands out as well, limiting teams to 63.1 ppg and 39.8 percent shooting -- good for third and second place, respectively, in the MVC. The Shockers are also the conference's best rebounding team, pulling down 38.0 boards per game with a MVC-best plus-6.5 margin on the glass overall. The balanced scoring effort for WSU has six players averaging at least 8.8 ppg with big man Garrett Stutz at the top of that list (14.1 ppg) while doubling as the club's best rebounder at 7.9 per contest. Both Ragland and Murry are close behind, averaging 13.2 and 12.3 ppg, respectively. Smith is on the rise and now adds 9.3 ppg to the mix while Carl Hall chips in 9.2 ppg and 5.4 rebound. Finally, David Kyles adds still further depth with an 8.8-point average while serving as the Shockers' best three- point threat with 49 treys on 37.4 percent shooting.