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Wichita State basketball looks to duck Drake curse

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, at 7:02 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, at 8:29 a.m.

Wichita State at Drake

When: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Knapp Center, Des Moines

Records: WSU 12-1, 1-0 MVC; DU 6-6, 0-1

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: Cox 22

Wichita State at Drake

PWichita St.HtYrPtsReb
F

Cleanthony Early6-8Jr.13.35.5
CEhimen Orukpe7-0Sr.2.84.4
GDemetric Williams6-3Sr.8.5x-2.5
GTekele Cotton6-3So.5.43.5
GMalcolm Armstead6-0Sr.8.0x-3.4

x-assists

Wichita State (12-1, 1-0): Orukpe estimates his right ankle, sprained in late November, is about 60 percent healthy. Regardless, he is helping the Shockers with his shot-blocking and rebounding. He played 20 minutes against Northern Iowa and blocked two shots and grabbed six rebounds. He also started a decisive second-half run with a dunk. “By now, I thought I would be back close to 100 percent,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a struggle to practice. It has to be a game before adrenaline takes over. Still, I can’t move as well as I want to.” … WSU is 21-4 on the road the past two-plus seasons, behind only Kansas (18-3) in road winning percentage.

PDrake.HtYrPtsReb
CSeth VanDeest6-11Jr.11.64.8
F Ben Simons6-8Sr.15.03.7
FJordan Clarke6-8Sr.9.28.7
GChris Hines6-0Sr.9.22.3
G Micah Mason6-2Fr.5.3x-2.0

Drake (6-6, 0-1): VanDeest is back after missing last season with shoulder injuries. He shoots 61.4 percent from the field and his 37 free throws lead the team.… Drake has scored 70 or more points in 11 games. No WSU opponent has reached 70.… Bradley held Drake to 18.5 percent shooting (5 of 27) from behind the arc in Saturday’s 67-57 win in Peoria. Drake shot 33.9 percent from the floor and committed 18 turnovers.… Hines was a high school teammate of former Shocker Toure Murry at Houston Klein Forest.… G Richard Carter averages 9.2 points off the bench. He started nine games before Mason moved into the lineup.

RPI as of Tuesday: WSU 18, DU 195

Wichita State is used to winning at Southern Illinois, a place it used to dread. It owns a two-game winning streak at Creighton, where it didn’t win from 1992 to 2010.

That leaves Drake. Yes, Drake. The unassuming Knapp Center is now the hardest place for the Shockers to win, a point hammered home in last season’s triple-overtime loss.

“They just played with a lot more intensity, a lot more fire than we did,” senior Demetric Williams said. “I’m really kind of still sick over that three-overtime loss. I want to get in there and tell that group of guys we’ve got that we’ve really go to go there and perform.”

The Shockers (12-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) play at Drake (6-6, 0-1) on Wednesday without many good memories in the 7,152-seat arena. WSU is 1-4 there in coach Gregg Marshall’s tenure. Tough games are nothing new — even WSU’s 2006 Missouri Valley Conference champions needed a last-second tip-in by Paul Miller to win at Drake.

WSU will again be short-handed without injured starters Carl Hall (broken thumb), Ron Baker (stress facture) and Evan Wessel (broken pinky). Backup center Chadrack Lufile will be a game-time decision. He missed Tuesday’s practice with back spasms.

Most teams play better at home. Drake’s boost seems more pronounced than most teams, especially against the Shockers. It is the only MVC team with a winning record (2-1) at home against WSU the past three seasons.

Atmosphere plays a role, in the mind of WSU coach Gregg Marshall. WSU played Drake on a Saturday or Sunday the past five seasons, including senior day for Drake’s MVC champions in 2008. The Knapp Center isn’t big; it is loud and the fans sit close to the floor. Playing the Bulldogs over holiday break on a Wednesday may take some of the juice out of the home-court edge.

“They’ve always been very vocal,” Marshall said. “This will be different. I’m assuming their students won’t be there. I’m assuming it will be a different crowd.”

Drake throws a split personality at the Shockers — tough at the Knapp Center and terrible at Koch Arena.

In the past three seasons, the Bulldogs took part in the two biggest turnarounds by any Shocker MVC opponent. In 2009-10, Drake lost by 23 at Koch Arena and won by 14 at the Knapp Center. Last season, WSU lost by seven on the road before winning by 23 at home. WSU owns eight home victories by 20 or more points over MVC opponents the past three seasons. Drake is the only team that managed to split the series.

“Last game there, we just lost focus,” WSU center Ehimen Orukpe said. “We didn’t make some key plays, winning plays.”

Drake, perhaps more than most teams, thrives on playing at home because it relies so heavily on outside shooting. It ranks second in the MVC from three-point range, making 41 percent.

The Bulldogs are 4-1 at home and are shooting 49.5 percent from three-point range. Away from the Knapp Center, they are making 35.2 percent.

“They really stroke it at home,” Williams said. “They’re used to their balls, their rims.”

Three Bulldogs rank in the Valley’s top 10 for three-point accuracy — Micah Mason (58.3), Gary Ricks (48.3) and Chris Hines (40.9). Ben Simons is close behind at 37.6 percent and WSU knows how he can take over a game after watching him score 29 points in last season’s 93-86 loss at the Knapp Center.

“Simons is the key,” Marshall said. “You leave him and he’s going to burn you. You’ve got to be locked in when you’re guarding him, as a team, not just as an individual.”

WSU is coming off one of its best performances of the season in Sunday’s 66-41 rout of Northern Iowa. It held the Panthers to 32.6 percent and 3-of-17 shooting from three-point range.

It could use a similar defensive effort against Drake. Orukpe expects Wednesday’s game to be more like a typical MVC grinder.

“The new players, they’re not used to that Valley kind of play where it comes down to one possession and it’s a low-scoring game,” Orukpe said. “They still don’t have a good feel for what the Valley is like, the physicality, the gritty, tough, fight through 40 minutes.”

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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