Shockers seek MVC title in battle with Bulldogs
Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - As the last remaining unbeaten team in the nation, the third-ranked Wichita State Shockers will try to continue their pursuit of perfection on Saturday night when they welcome the Drake Bulldogs to Koch Arena for a Missouri Valley Conference clash.
Drake has endured an up-and-down season overall (14-13) and has experienced its fair share of struggles in conference play (5-10), but it has turned things around of late with back-to-back wins over Loyola-Chicago (70-62) and Northern Iowa (70-67). The Bulldogs are just 4-7 on the road, however.
Wichita Sate's unblemished campaign remained intact on Wednesday night with an 88-74 road victory, and with top-ranked Syracuse's loss earlier in the week, it is the lone remaining unbeaten team left in the country. The Shockers have already set their program record for longest winning streak, and they are the first team to open a season 28-0 since Illinois in 2004-2005.The Shockers have won at least a share of the MVC regular-season crown and can earn the outright title with a win here.
The Shockers got the best of the Bulldogs in the first meeting this season, winning 78-61 at home on Jan. 25 to improve to 97-47 in the all-time series.
The Bulldogs built a lead as large as 19 with under nine minutes to play in their most recent contest, and while they saw that advantage dip to just one down the stretch, they avoided an epic collapse and held on for their second straight win. They shot 47.9 percent from the field, including 8-of-18 from 3- point range, and were led by Richard Carter with 19 points and six assists. Trevor Berkeley poured in 15 points, while Seth VanDeest tallied eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
On the season, Drake is barely able to outproduce its opponents, as it shoots 45.4 percent from the floor for 69.7 ppg while allowing 68.0 ppg on 44 percent shooting. Its biggest advantage comes from beyond the arc, where it drains 8.0 3-pointers per game at a 39.7 percent clip. Carter is the team's leading scorer with 17.0 ppg and also chips in with 3.7 apg and 1.9 spg. Jordan Daniels (10.6 ppg), Aaron Hawley (10.0 ppg) and Chris Caird (9.1 ppg) have combined for 128 3-pointers and each shoot greater than 39 percent from long range.
The Shockers overcame their road surroundings earlier in the week and easily dismissed Loyola in the 14-point victory, as they shot 49.1 percent from the field, 31-of-34 at the free-throw line (.912) and dominated the rebounding battle, 41-24. Fred VanVleet was the spark plug in the victory, as he was perfect from both the field (6-of-6) and the foul line (10-of-10) on his way to 22 points while adding eight rebounds and six assists for good measure. Cleanthony Early scored 18 points and blocked a pair of shots, while Darius Carter and Ron Baker netted 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, Wichita State boasts a strong offensive attack this season, as it shoots 45.2 percent from the field for 75.6 ppg. The biggest reason for it rise to the elite, however, has been its lock-down defense, which yields a lowly 61.0 ppg on 40.1 percent shooting. It also lives comfortably in the green in regards to its rebounding (+8.1) and turnover (+2.1) margins. Early paces the squad in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.1 rpg). Baker (13.3 ppg) has knocked down a team-high 50 3-pointers, VanVleet contributes across the board with 12.2 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.0 rpg and 2.0 spg, while Tekele Cotton brings 10.0 ppg to the table.