Links to national and regional stories about Wichita State
Links to national and regional stories about Wichita State
Wichita State vs. Missouri State, 1:35 p.m.
Southern Illinois vs. Indiana State, 4:05 p.m.
MSU coach Paul Lusk and his program offer one of the best hopes for optimism in the MVC. Despite losing leading scorer Marcus Marshall to a knee injury (Jan. 11 against WSU), the Bears are 20-11 and finished fourth in the Valley. They also dealt with the repetitive injuries of senior Keith Pickens, who is healthy. And quite the inspiration. For now.
That left MSU with one four-year senior (Nathan Scheer), one two-season senior coming off knee surgery (Jarmar Gulley) and a transfer senior (Emmanuel Addo), who is suspended. Out of that, Lusk fashioned a competitive team with lots of upside.
The Shockers will enjoy a big edge in physical ability in the lane. MSU freshman Tyler McCullough is a freshman, and he played seven minutes in Friday’s win over Illinois State. In two games against WSU, he scored 10 points and picked up eight fouls, so we know how his day will likely go. Junior Christian Kirk is too small to effectively play the post against WSU’s collection of bruisers. The Shockers out-rebounded MSU 43-25 in the March 1 meeting.
Gulley and freshman Austin Ruder are the threats. Gulley, a second-team All-MVC pick, is one of the few MVC players who can do the things WSU’s Cleanthony Early can do, although he’s smaller and not as accurate from long range.
Ruder makes 42.3 percent of his threes and burned the Shockers in Springfield for five threes, many while being guarded by Ron Baker. Baker made Ruder a personal project in the rematch and he scored two points. Gulley scored 15 points in that 68-45 loss at Koch Arena and no other Bear reached double figures. If Ruder or Ron Mvouika can’t offer a second (or third) scoring option, MSU will struggle.
Mvouika is MSU’s microwave off the bench. He makes 43.9 percent of his threes. He played four minutes in the first meeting and his role increased after Marshall’s injury.
MSU makes 36.3 percent of its threes, second in the MVC. It’s not a particularly good perimeter defense team. In 18 MVC games, opponents made 37 percent of their threes.
Wichita State 80, Evansville 58
Missouri State 53, Illinois State 48
Indiana State 75, Loyola 62
Southern Illinois 63, Northern Iowa 58
Evansville 69, Drake 61
Loyola 74, Bradley 72
Tekele Cotton vs. D.J. Balentine is the Valley’s premier individual matchup. Cotton is the best defender. Balentine is the MVC’s leading scorer. Evansville will run him off screen after screen to take advantage of his quick release and soft touch.
Keeping Balentine off the foul line is crucial. He is going to get shots because that’s the way Evansville plays. He is going make many because he’s a great scorer. It’s OK to let him make 10 of 20 shots, as long as he doesn’t add 9 of 10 free throws to that total. He is 7 of 8 against WSU in two meetings this season. The Shockers will take that average of 4 a game.
Aces center Egidijus Mockevicius is a rapidly improving player who had 19 points and 10 minutes in the second meeting. Foul trouble limited him to 16 minutes in the first game. Opposing big men pick up a lot of fouls 25 feet from the basket as they attempt to guard WSU’s Fred VanVleet on screens. The Aces need 30-plus minute from Mockevicius to make this interesting. Their backups aren’t much of a factor.
In the two meetings, the only other Ace to score double figures was Blake Simmons with 12 in the second game. Although the Aces are built to get Balentine shots, he needs help from role players such as Adam Wing and Duane Gibson. Gibson is 0 for 1 from three-point range this season and backup point Jaylon Brown is 2 for 10.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall would love to put this away early so he can rest his starters in the final minutes and avoid injury.
If you are driving to St. Louis on Saturday or Sunday, avoid I-64, which will close (both directions) at 8 p.m. Friday.
According to the MVC: Alternate options to get to Scottrade Center from the west include Interstate 44, Interstate 70, and from Interstate 64 eastbound take I-170 north to Forest Park Parkway east to the Market Street exit.
Wichita State did another cover shoot for Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. SI may or may not use the photo, but the story is revealing and shows how the Shockers are handling the attention of this 31-0 season.
SI told coach Gregg Marshall to choose one player to pose with fans. Marshall asked Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton to draw strings, short one gets to pose.
“As we were beginning to do that, the guys chuckled,” Marshall said. “We kind of had a hard time believing they wanted to do another cover shot. But Cleanthony says, ‘I think it should be Tekele.’ Everybody looked at him. ‘The rest of us get more hype. I don’t want to pick.’ That’s the kind of guys we’ve got.”
So, no, Marshall doesn’t worry much about this team’s time in the spotlight.
“I don’t think they could have responded any better,” he said. “It says a lot about the type kids we’ve got and Cleanthony as an individual.”
Cotton, wearing his white jersey, took the picture in Koch Arena on Tuesday morning, surrounded by Shocker fans cheering wildly.
”Nobody on our team is selfish,” he said. “People don’t mind giving up something for somebody else. We’re close enough to be able to do that.”
My apologies for the delay. I’m way behind on the Travel Channel and my goal is to catch up before St. Louis.
Key statistics: The Shockers held the Bears to 8-of-27 shooting in the decisive first half and led by 20 points four times. For the game, WSU out-rebounded the Bears 43-25 and scored 30 of its points in the paint.
How the game turned: Cleanthony Early’s three-pointer gave WSU a 14-6 lead and started a 13-2 run that gave the Shockers control. After Early’s three, MSU’s Ron Mvouika traveled. After two missed shots by the Bears, WSU led 18-6.
Records: MSU 19-10, 9-8 MVC; WSU 31-0, 18-0
Next up: vs. Drake or Evansville, 12:05 p.m. Friday (FSKC)
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