Wichita State Shockers (15-1, 4-0) at Evansville Purple Aces (10-6, 3-1)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 5/18
Game Time: 3:35 p.m. Sunday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, ESPN3.com, Aces TV
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Game Notes: Click here
Spread: Wichita State -3 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Lewis Jones, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Wichita State’s Probable Starters: G Malcolm Armstead, G Tekele Cotton, G Demetric Williams, F Cleanthony Early, C Ehimen Orukpe
Last Meeting: Wichita State won 86-74 last Jan. 25 at Koch Arena.
Series History: UE has lost five straight to Wichita State, with the last win coming Feb. 9, 2010 at Roberts Stadium. The Shockers lead the all-time series 22-14, though the Aces are 9-8 when playing them at home.
Jan. 12: UE hopes bench can make the difference against Wichita State
Jan. 12: Early’s rise at Wichita State comes far away from home
Jan. 12: Cotton proving vital to Shockers’ defense
Jan. 10: Aces better from the free throw line in MVC play
Jan. 10: Wichita State’s NCAA resume will note tough times
Jan. 9: UE shoulders rally, holds off Northern Iowa for third straight win
Jan. 9: Early scores 39 to lead Wichita State past Southern Illinois
—UE senior Colt Ryan, the latest member of the MVC’s 1,800-point club, has upped his scoring average from 13.7 points per game in non-conference play to an average 21.3 points in MVC games since coming back from an early season hip pointer injury.
—Aces senior Troy Taylor maintained his status as the top rebounding point guard in the country with a seven-board effort against Northern Iowa. Taylor averages 7.5 rebounds per game.
—Taylor, along with UE senior Lewis Jones, hsas led the Aces’ resurgence this season at the free throw line. Taylor had hit 23 of 43 foul shots (53.5 percent) entering MVC play but has since connected on 9 of his last 11. Jones was 10 of 23 from the charity stripe to start the season but is since 23 of 25.
—Jones, by the way, is on the top scoring streak of his career having averaged 9.8 points per game in UE’s last six contests. The forward had seven career double-figure efforts entering his senior year but has already posted five of them this season.
—Wichita State junior Cleanthony Early’s 39 points scored against Southern Illinois were a season-high for all MVC players this season, at least until Creighton’s Doug McDermott decided to match the effort in the Bluejays’ win Friday over Missouri State.
—The Shockers lost their top five scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and they will play Sunday without three starters due to injuries: senior Carl Hall (13.9 ppg), redshirt freshman Ron Baker (7.3 ppg) and sophomore Evan Wessel (5.5 ppg).
—Despite losing so many key players, Wichita State has won six games in a row and was ranked 17th in the NCAA’s first official ratings percentage index released last week.
—The Shockers hold opponents to 39.6 percent field goal shooting, a figure that tops the MVC and is 53rd in the nation.
—UE is 7-0 this season when it out-rebounds opponents and 2-6 when on the wrong end of that statistic. The Aces are a perfect 4-0 when they take the opening tip and also won the tip to start overtime against Missouri State before winning that game, too.
—UE scores almost 10 more points per game in home contests (73.1 ppg) compared to on the road (63.7 ppg). Wichita State is 14-2 in road games dating back to last season and 4-1 in games this season, with the lone loss coming by a 69-60 score Dec. 13 at Tennessee.
UE coach Marty Simmons on Wichita State’s ability to keep winning despite losing so many important pieces to injuries: “They obviously have tremendous depth. I think you have to give your coaching staff and players a lot of credit, too.”
Aces senior Troy Taylor on what he’s seen from the Shockers: “They’re a hard-nosed team defensively. They pressure you. They run the press. They can shoot it and drive it. They have a good big man and a nice guard.”
UE freshman Adam Wing adds to that: “I watched a little bit (Thursday) night of Wichita against Bradley. They’re super long, athletic, active with their hands. But our system’s set up to succeed against teams like that. We can sweep the ball to go around them and create separation with tight cuts – just little things like that…They play hard. They play together. They have a kind of swagger about them where they feel they’re going to be the best team on the court.”
Simmons on how UE will defend Wichita State junior Cleanthony Early, the Shockers’ leading scorer: “We’ll change it up. A lot guys will (guard him). When you play against a guy like that – in a lot of ways he’s similar to (Creighton’s Doug) McDermott because he has the ability to stroke the 3 and gets in the post. He’s a very versatile basketball player, and his size and length are pretty amazing. We’ll mix.”
Outlook: Sunday presents a fourth opportunity for UE to play a ranked team but the first this season at home, where the Aces’ win-loss record is much better than on the road. After close calls against Bradley and Southern Illinois this past week, the Shockers are ripe for an upset. And riding a three-game winning streak, the Aces are poised to win a big one. But will they? Rebounding will be key, and UE needs to continue its hot shooting to have a chance.