GAME NOTES: The Wichita State Shockers look to end their first losing streak of the season when they visit SIU Arena for a Missouri Valley Conference tilt against the Southern Illinois Salukis.
The Shockers fell out of the top 25 in the new poll after they dropped consecutive decisions to Indiana State (68-55) at home and Northern Iowa (57-52) on the road. Despite the recent slump, Wichita State still owns a very impressive 19-4 overall record that includes victories over Virginia Commonwealth, Iowa, Air Force, Southern Miss, and Creighton. Coach Gregg Marshall's squad is the best defensive unit in the Missouri Valley Conference with only 59.0 points allowed per contest. Wichita State is also has the fourth best scoring offense in the MVC at 69.0 ppg.
SIU's struggles in MVC play continued over the weekend as it was completely destroyed in an 83-47 loss at Illinois State. The Salukis are still just one win away from surpassing their win total from a season ago thanks to their 7-4 run through their non-conference slate, but they have been outscored by an average of 12.4 points per game and allowed their MVC opposition to shoot 50.2 percent from the floor. First-year head coach Barry Hinson's team really struggles on the glass as 6-foot-1 senior guard Jeff Early is leading the unit with 7.7 boards per tilt. The Salukis have no active players on their team listed taller than 6-foot-5.
Although SIU won 19-of-22 games against the Shockers from 1999 to 2009, it still trails the Shockers, 48-37, in the all-time series. Wichita State collected an 82-76 victory on Jan. 9 at home in the first meeting of the season between these schools.
Wichita State was held to a season-low 51 points by Northern Iowa on Saturday and is averaging just 53.5 ppg in its past two games. Carl Hall poured in 20 points off the bench against the Panthers, but his team-high was just two points less than the collective total of the starting five, which combined to go 9-of-30 from the floor in the setback. The Panthers managed to bury the Shockers by connecting on 5-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second stanza, while Wichita State went 2-of-7 from 3-point range during that span. Cleanthony Early, who paces the team with 15.0 ppg, has a streak of 13 consecutive games with 10 points or more after finishing with 10 on Saturday. Hall contributes 12.6 points and 7.6 boards per tilt.
SIU's margin of loss to Illinois State was the fourth largest in school history. The Redbirds sank 46.2 percent of their field goal tries while limiting the Salukis to 30.5 percent shooting. Desmar Jackson tallied 14 points to pace SIU in the setback. Jackson has carried the load this season, as he leads the team in scoring (16.1 ppg), steals (45) and 3-pointers (31) and is second in rebounding (5.9 rpg). He is on pace to be the first SIU player to average more than 16 points since Darren Brooks (16.5) in 2003-04. Early is second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) and his rebounding average is tops nationally among players who stand 6-1 and under. Still, the Salukis have been out-rebounded by all but one conference opponent this season.
The Shockers should be able to get back on track against the undersized Salukis in this one. Wichita State should be able to dominate inside and force SIU to settle for a strong share of outside shots, which should lead to some easy fast-break points.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 73, Southern Illinois 61
02/05 10:32:31 ET
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