Bears face uphill climb in clash with Shockers

Jan 21, 2015 - 3:30 PM Springfield, MO ( - The last team in the Missouri Valley Conference yet to lose a league outing, the 14th-ranked Wichita State Shockers take on the Missouri State Bears at JQH Arena on Wednesday night.

The Shockers, who entered the week tied with Northern Iowa for the best overall record among MVC programs at 16-2, have been successful in all six of their conference bouts. The most recent triumph took place last Saturday in a 61-41 thrashing of Evansville on the road. A win against the Bears would give the Shockers their fourth 7-0 start in conference play.

Wichita State has won 24 straight MVC outings (third-longest in league history), and 12 consecutive MVC road bouts (tied for fifth).

The only two defeats for WSU have come away from home, with a 69-68 overtime loss to Utah in early December, and a 60-54 setback versus George Washington on Christmas Day in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the Bears started off the league slate well enough with two straight wins over Southern Illinois and Drake, but after the 62-37 thumping of the Bulldogs on Jan. 3 the team hit the skids. On Sunday, Missouri State was taken out by Northern Iowa on the road, 60-46, marking the team's fourth straight setback as it was held to 56 points or less in every one of those defeats.

The all-time series between the teams is currently controlled by the Shockers, 35-30. While the Bears lead by a 19-9 margin in Springfield overall, WSU has posted four wins in six chances at JQH Arena.

The Shockers weren't exactly at their best on offense against the Purple Aces, shooting 41.3 percent from the floor and 4-of-11 behind the 3-point line, but at the other end of the floor they more than made up for it. Evansville was limited to only 15-of-50 (.300) from the field and had almost as many turnovers (14) as field goals, while being outscored 19-9 at the free-throw line.

Ron Baker and Darius Carter both dropped in 18 points for Wichita State, the former converting all but one of his nine attempts at the charity stripe and accounting for both four steals and three blocked shots, while the latter registered a double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Shockers are turning up the defense against league foes, limiting them to only 52.0 ppg on 35.2 percent shooting from the floor. The opposition is averaging less than eight assists per contest, compared to almost 14 dishes per outing for WSU. Fred VanVleet (8.2 ppg) has produced 35 assists all by himself, just 11 shy of the entire total for the competition. Baker and Carter spearhead the offense with 15.7 and 14.7 ppg, respectively.

The guard play of Austin Ruder and Dorrian Williams produced 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Bears during their meeting with Northern Iowa on Sunday, which means the rest of their teammates combined to produce a mere 22 points during the double-digit setback on the road. Getting off just 38 shots from the floor, Missouri State connected on 14 and also came up short on the glass, 37-26, while allowing the Panthers to pull down 18 offensive boards.

Unfortunately for the Bears, one of four teams in the MVC with a losing record overall, they are playing without the services of Marcus Marshall who is out of action due to personal reasons. With Marshall and his 19.5 ppg not hitting the floor, that means the Bears don't have a single active player scoring in double figures. Ruder, who has knocked down 38.4 percent of his 3-point tries, is on top in the scoring department with a mere 8.8 ppg, followed by Williams with another 8.0 ppg on the campaign.

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