North Carolina Central (7-2) at (11) Wichita State (11-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 22, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Charles Koch Arena (10,506) -- Wichita, Kansas. Television: None. Home Record: NCCU 4-0, WSU 6-0. Away Record: NCCU 3-2, WSU 3-0. Neutral Record: NCCU 0-0, WSU 2-0. Conference Record: NCCU 0-0, WSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Wichita State Shockers will attempt to remain unbeaten on Sunday night when they welcome the North Carolina Central Eagles to Charles Koch Arena.
NCCU, one of the favorites in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, has gotten the season started off right with wins in seven of its first nine games. The Eagles most recently hosted Winthrop on Wednesday night and came away with a 72-66 victory.
Heading into the weekend, Wichita State was one of just 11 unbeaten teams left in Division I, climbing up the ranks with wins in each of its first 11 games. The Shockers continued their unblemished start to the season on Tuesday night when they ventured into hostile territory at Alabama and pulled off an impressive 72-67 road victory.
This matchup marks the first-ever meeting between NCCU and Wichita State in men's basketball.
The Eagles led for the majority of their latest game, as they shot 50 percent from the field, outscored Winthrop at the foul line (19-8) and created 18 takeaways on their way to the six-point victory. Leading the charge was Jeremy Ingram, who shot 8-of-13 from the field for 24 points, his sixth game of at least 20 points this season. Jordan Parks (18 points) and Reggie Groves (12 points) both provided a spark off the bench, while Emanuel Chapman dished out nine assists.
On the season, NCCU has impressed on both ends of the floor, outshooting its opponents from the field, 46.9 percent to 37.8 percent, for a lofty +15.0 scoring margin. Ingram is one of the nation's elite scoring threats, as his 23.2 points per game places his sixth in Division I. Alfonzo Houston brings 12.6 points per game to the table, and Jordan Parks (10.3 ppg, 6.8 ppg) is highly efficient, shooting 65.6 percent from the field in less than 20 minutes of action per game.
After battling back-and-forth with Alabama all game, Wichita State eventually outlasted the Crimson Tide down the stretch and held on for the five-point win. It shot a modest 44 percent from the field, including just 3-of-12 from 3-point range, but the biggest difference came at the foul line, where it was nearly automatic as 25-of-27. Cleanthony Early put up a season-best 26 points, doing so on 7-of-11 from the field while also draining each of his 11 tries at the charity stripe. Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton were also integral factors with 11 points apiece.
The Shockers have impressed this season on offense, shooting nearly 46 percent from the field for 77.1 points per game, but the biggest reason for their undefeated start has been their excellent play on the other end of the floor, as its scoring defense (61.0 ppg) ranks top-20 in the nation. Early leads the team in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg), while Ron Baker (14.0 ppg) has handed out 38 assists paired with just 14 turnovers. Cotton and VanVleet round out a balanced attack with 11.3 points per game each.
NCCU has played very well this season, but it has yet to face a challenge as great as heading into Koch Arena. All but one of the Shockers' six home wins have come by double-digits, and while they certainly can't take the Eagles lightly, the trend is expected to continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 80, NC Central 70
12/22 10:37:34 ET