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Wichita State’s Valley road show pulls into Des Moines

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, at 12:48 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 11:02 a.m.

Photos

No. 5 Wichita State at Drake

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Knapp Center, Des Moines

Records: WSU 20-0, 7-0 MVC; DU 11-8, 2-5

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: Cox 22

Online: ESPN3

No. 5 Wichita State at Drake

PWichita St.Ht.Yr.PtsReb
FTekele Cotton6-3Jr.9.55.0
FCleanthony Early6-8Sr.15.96.6
CChadrack Lufile6-9Sr.5.95.1
GRon Baker6-3So.13.14.1
G Fred VanVleet6-1So.12.7x-5.2
Drake
FAaron Hawley6-8Sr.10.33.8
CSeth VanDeest6-10Fr.5.14.9
FBlake Danielak6-7Fr.5.13.6
FTrevor Berkeley6-6Jr.3.31.9
G Richard Carter5-11Sr.17.9x-3.2

x-assists

Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC): The Shockers are 7-0 in the MVC for the second time. The 1964-65 team started 8-0 before losing at Tulsa. The last MVC team to start 6-0 or better was the 2008 Drake team (13-0). Baker is 33-2 as a starter, losing at Tennessee and to Louisville in the Final Four. Three Shockers rank in the top 10 for free throw percentage in MVC games. Baker is second after making 21 of 22 free throws (95.5 percent). VanVleet is eighth (81.6) and Early ninth (81.3). WSU is shooting 71.6 percent from the line in conference play and it leads the MVC with 121 made and 169 attempts. Lufile (1.4 a game), Kadeem Coleby (1.3) and Early (1.1) rank third, fourth and fifth in blocked shots in conference games.

Drake (11-8, 2-5): Drake last defeated a nationally ranked team at home last season, 74-69 vs. No. 17 Creighton. The Shockers have won three in a row in the series, which is tied 34-all in Des Moines. Carter is averaging 18.3 points over the past three games and is 7 of 15 from three-point range. G Jordan Daniels, a transfer from Boston College, has started eight games and averages 12.7 points. He is 15 of 31 from three-point range and 31 of 34 at the foul line. Hawley scored a season-high 19 points in Wednesday’s win at Southern Illinois and averages 15.1 points in MVC games. Hawley played three seasons for the Bulldogs before former coach Mark Phelps cut him last season. He returned to play for new coach Ray Giacoletti. Giacoletti spent the past six seasons as an assistant at Gonzaga. He coached Utah to the Sweet 16 in 2005. He was briefly an assistant at WSU in spring of 2000 on coach Mark Turgeon’s first staff. Eastern Washington hired him as head coach weeks after he took the job at WSU.

RPIs as of Tuesday: WSU 7, DU 171.

The Missouri Valley Conference’s No. 1 road show is on again, packing arenas, color-coding crowds and inspiring student sections.

No. 5 Wichita State plays at Drake on Saturday night and the Knapp Center (capacity 7,152) will draw its largest crowd of the season. On Friday, the Drake ticket office warns callers that reserved seats will likely sell out, leaving only general admission.

The Shockers (20-0, 7-0) are used to the attention. And they can’t say it doesn’t affect them. At Missouri State, they trailed by 18 at halftime. At Illinois State on Wednesday, they committed an unsightly 11 first-half turnovers and trailed 28-25. WSU won both and the players know the remaining road games will feature them as a potential season-defining, coaching-landmark, court-storming victory.

“It’s something we’ve got to get used to,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “Everybody is filling their arena. Everybody wants to come watch us.”

WSU is 3-0 in MVC road games and each visit by a nationally ranked team increased attendance. At Southern Illinois, the 4,891 fans (hurt by students out on semester break) is the second-largest crowd of the season and best in MVC play. Missouri State drew 10,776 fans, more than double its season average and the third-largest crowd in JQH Arena’s six-season history. Illinois State drew 9,510 fans, most wearing red for a designated red-out promotion, and the most in the building since 2010. Its season average is 4,962.

Those three wins added to WSU’s resume as the nation’s top road team. It is 32-8 on the road since 2010-11, tops nationally in that span by winning percentage. Kansas (26-8) is second, followed by Syracuse (24-9) and Gonzaga (26-10).

The Shockers made uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half at Illinois State against the hyped-up Redbirds defense. Bad passes. Poor choices with dribble drives. They settled down in the second half and played their typical low-error game and won 70-55. The Shockers are talented enough to survive bad stretches and experienced enough to keep them rare. Most MVC teams aren’t dangerous enough to take full advantage of a low-ebb by the Shockers, as Illinois State showed. Despite WSU’s struggles, the Redbirds failed to build a significant lead in the first half.

“We didn’t recognize ourselves,” WSU senior Cleanthony Early said. “We were doing things we don’t normally do. We acknowledged the situation and when you want it really bad, you’re willing to adjust.”

Drake presents an historical challenge for the Shockers. WSU is 2-4 at the Knapp Center under Gregg Marshall with all the losses coming on a weekend when the Bulldogs drew larger crowds. In 2012, Drake handed WSU its only MVC road loss in front of a crowd of 4,895, about 1,000 above its season average. Last season, 2,792 came out to watch the Shockers handle Drake on a Wednesday.

“I anticipate a pretty festive atmosphere, like we’re going to get just about everywhere at this point,” Marshall said.

Drake (11-8, 2-5) snapped a five-game losing streak with Wednesday’s 57-54 win at Southern Illinois.

“We’ve all stuck together,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti told reporters after the game. “You find out about people’s true colors with a little adversity.”

The Bulldogs lost starting guard Gary Ricks Jr., who averaged 12.3 points, after eight games with a broken foot. That puts more burden on senior Richard Carter, who averages 17.9 points and has scored 20-plus seven times.

“He can drive it and shoot it,” Marshall said. “He’s had some really big games, so you’ve got to be cognizant of him at all times.”

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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