Lions and Shockers meet in Diamond Head Classic

Dec 22, 2014 - 3:31 PM Honolulu, HI ( - The Wichita State Shockers seek to win an in-season tournament for the third straight season, as they clash with the Lions of Loyola Marymount in the annual Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on Monday.

The Shockers, who won the 2012 Cancun Challenge and the 2013 CBE Classic, have won all but one of their first nine games of the 2014-15 campaign, with that lone setback coming by a single point in overtime versus Utah earlier this month. Since the defeat, Wichita State has rattled off four straight victories, the most recent of which being a narrow 53-52 triumph over Alabama close to a week ago now.

With the victory over the Crimson Tide, WSU's home winning streak was stretched to 23 in a row, the nation's fifth-longest run entering this week.

Meanwhile, the Lions are coming in flat as they deal with a four-game slide, the last three defeats all coming on the road. Last week, LMU followed up a disappointing 71-69 setback against Northern Arizona with a 67-58 defeat at the hands of Stanford. The Lions are now three games under .500, with one of their three victories coming against San Diego Christian.

The Shockers won the only previous meeting between the programs by a score of 75-73 at home in 1983.

Both teams will be back in action on Tuesday in the semifinals of the event, the winner taking on the survivor of the Nebraska/Hawaii contest and the losers competing against each other on the other side of the bracket.

The Lions shot a solid 47.1 percent from the field against Stanford, including 6-of-14 behind the 3-point line, but at the same time the visitors turned the ball over 17 times and were outscored at the free-throw line by a 17-4 margin, en route to the nine-point loss. The only double-digit scorer for LMU was Evan Payne who delivered 14 points.

Payne, a career 16.9 ppg scorer, leads the Lions this season with 21.7 ppg, the only player in double figures. The lack of a strong supporting cast in the scoring column may have something to do with the fact that the starting lineup has been juggled quite a bit in the early going. In fact, while Payne has started just five contests, the only player to appear in the starting lineup each time out is Ayodeji Egbeyemi who is shooting only 37.1 percent from the field as he generates 7.9 ppg for a team putting up 66.3 ppg, while allowing 69.8 ppg.

Trailing by 11 points with just over six minutes left in regulation, the Shockers held Alabama without a field goal from that point on in order to capture the thrilling one-point win at home. Darius Carter led the way for Wichita State with 16 points, adding six rebounds, while Ron Baker tacked on 14 points as the team came out ahead despite shooting only 40.8 percent from the field, 27.8 percent beyond the arc, and a dismal 8-of-17 (.471) at the free-throw line.

Baker is typically the go-to guy on offense for the Shockers, leading the team with his 18.0 ppg as he converts an impressive 46.6 percent beyond the arc. Carter is another solid source of offense with 12.7 ppg, hitting his field goal attempts (.565) at a higher rate than he does his free throws (.548). Fred VanVleet pitches in with 12.6 ppg, and although he is shooting only 39.6 percent from the field overall and 25.8 percent out on the perimeter, his presence on the floor is essential due to the fact that he has handed out 47 assists, more than twice what any of his teammates has issued.

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