Wichita State (21-5) at Illinois State (16-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, February 17, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,200) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: WSU 14-1, ISU 10-4. Away Record: WSU 5-4, ISU 5-5. Neutral Record: WSU 2-0, ISU 1-1. Conference Record: WSU 10-4, ISU 7-7. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 37-34.
GAME NOTES: The Illinois State Redbirds try to match their longest win streak of the season on Sunday night, as they host the Wichita State Shockers in Missouri Valley Conference action.
The Redbirds kicked off the 2012-13 campaign with five straight wins back in November, and now the team is trying to match that run as it takes the floor at home this weekend. On Wednesday night, ISU crushed visiting Bradley in a 79-59 decision, marking the team's fourth straight win and the seventh in the last eight outings overall in order to move to 7-7 in league play.
It wasn't that long ago that the Shockers were one of the teams to beat in the MVC, posting a 19-2 record to begin the season, but a lot has changed since then. The team suffered through a three-game slide with defeats against Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois before finally crushing Missouri State last weekend in a 79-50 decision at home.
Also in action on Wednesday night, Wichita State moved to 10-4 in conference play with a 71-56 win over Drake at home, completing the season sweep of the Bulldogs in the process. The Shockers entered the weekend as the top team in the MVC standings.
The first meeting of the season between these two clubs was won by Wichita State at home in the middle of January, 74-62, which means the all-time series now favors Illinois State by a count of 37-34.
Holding Drake to just six field goals in the first half, including 1-of-11 shooting behind the 3-point line in the period, made it that much easier for the Shockers to cruise to another win in the series. Fred VanVleet came off the bench to fill his stat line with 17 points, nine assists, five rebounds and a couple of steals for the hosts, followed by Carl Hall who completed a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Malcolm Armstead chipped in with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting beyond the arc, followed by Cleanthony Early with 11 points in a reserve role.
Over the last four games, the Shockers have had a different leading scorer each time out, but overall the top man continues to be Early with his 14.5 ppg, followed by Hall (12.3 ppg). However, while the pair has made it a priority to get together and pull down almost 13 rebounds per game, their willingness and ability to pass the ball to teammates in scoring positions is sorely lacking. After 26 games, Early and Hall have combined for a mere 26 assists.
The Redbirds started out a bit shaky against Bradley earlier in the week, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field in the first half, but the team turned it around after the break by converting close to 60 percent from the floor as they pulled away for the comfortable win. Jackie Carmichael made good on all but five of his 15 shot attempts, finishing with 27 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Tyler Brown who accounted for 22 points, eight boards and five assists for the hosts.
Carmichael is a powerful interior presence for the Redbirds these days, leading the team in both scoring (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg), not to mention coming up with 52 of its 106 blocked shots. But what makes his efforts even more remarkable is the fact that he has not yet fouled out of a game this season. While Carmichael is handling the action in the paint, Brown (16.6 ppg) is out on the perimeter connecting on 35.1 percent of his 3-point attempts for the squad as it generates 76.1 ppg.
Now that Wichita State is no longer running away from the rest of the conference, a team like the Redbirds knows just how to attack the Shockers and perhaps avenge that loss from earlier in the campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 73, Wichita State 70
02/17 10:33:14 ET