Basic info: No. 13 Wichita State (15-2, 5-0 MVC) at Evansville (13-4, 3-2), 1 p.m. CST Saturday at the Ford Center
Preview stories: Shockers visit draws crowd, cash for UE hoops; UE’s Wing could return for Wichita State game
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Indiana; WUEV 91.5 FM
Wichita State: Evan Wessel (6-4, Jr., F, 3.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Darius Carter (6-7, Sr., F, 12.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Fred VanVleet (6-0, Jr., G, 10.7 ppg, 5.6 apg); Ron Baker (6-4, Jr., G, 16.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Tekele Cotton (6-3, Sr., G, 10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg).
Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.5 ppg, 2.5 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 20.5 ppg, 3.7 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 8.0 ppg, 2.4 apg); Mislav Brzoja (6-6, So., F, 9.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 6-10, 13.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg).
Noting Wichita State: The Shockers have won 23 straight MVC games, including 11 in a row on the road. Wichita State’s 42-9 road record since 2010-11 leads the nation. … Senior forward Darius Carter has posted two of his top three scoring games in WSU’s last two contests. Carter had 19 points Jan. 7 against Bradley and a career-high 25 Wednesday against Southern Illinois. … Conference opponents are shooting just 36 percent from the field against the Shockers. … Ron Baker ranks third in the MVC in scoring while Fred VanVleet ranks first in assists.
Noting Evansville: Egidijus Mockevicius has recorded nine straight double-doubles. He has 13 already this season, a UE Division I record. … Mislav Brzoja has averaged 14 points per game over his last four outings. … The Aces are coming off back-to-back MVC road wins against Bradley and Missouri State, the first time UE has won consecutive road league games since 1999. … D.J. Balentine hasn’t been as dominant of a scorer during MVC play. He is averaging 15.8 points in five league games, compared to 20.5 points per game for the season. … Adam Wing, who started 11 games before straining a quadriceps muscle, could return after sitting out the Aces’ last six games. … The Aces lead the MVC in scoring (74.6 ppg) and are shooting 51 percent from the field.
Three keys from the Evansville perspective:
1. Can Balentine and the Aces get on track offensively?
The Shockers might be the top defensive team in the MVC, while UE is among the best offensive teams. The Aces will need Balentine to have a strong shooting night to have a chance to pull the upset. Balentine scored a season-low seven points Wednesday at Missouri State, but hit the game-winning shot.
2. Will Mockevicius give the Aces an inside advantage?
Wichita State’s backcourt is regarded as one of the best in the country, but the Shockers’ frontcourt players are no slouches, either. Darius Carter is coming off a career-high 25 points against SIU and is second on the team in scoring.
However, if there’s one position the Aces have a major advantage, it’s center. Carter gives up three inches to Mockevicius, who is blowing away the competition in the MVC rebounding race. Mockevicius gave WSU all it could handle last season at the Ford Center, making 7 of 7 field goals and 5 of 5 free throws en route to 19 points and 10 rebounds.
3. What will UE get from Adam Wing?
Wing returned to practice Thursday for the first time since straining his quadriceps on Dec. 21 against Alabama State. Chances are he sees some action today, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to play at his normal level, and for how long.
Wing said Friday he is still regaining his conditioning. Meanwhile, Mislav Brzoja has filled in well for Wing in the starting lineup, so the Aces could just use Wing for spot minutes until he completely returns to form.
Predictions: Wichita State is favored by 6 1/2 points. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 67-63 Shockers win and gives WSU a 69 percent chance of victory.