EVANSVILLE, Ind. —Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall owns a win in every Missouri Valley Conference arena except one.
Fittingly, in this monumentally successful road basketball season, the one hole in that resume is up next. The Shockers (21-5, 12-3 Missouri Valley Conference) play Evansville (14-11, 8-7) tonight in search of their first win at Roberts Stadium since 2007.
Ending losing streaks is a specialty of this team, 7-0 in MVC road games. The Shockers won at Northern Iowa for the first time since 2007 on Saturday. Earlier this season, they ended a 17-game losing streak at Creighton and won at Illinois State and Drake for the first time since 2006.
On Monday, the Shockers went through their normal travel-day routine. They practiced at Koch Arena before boarding a charter flight for Evansville in the early evening. Somewhere in that process, the Shockers turn into road-hardened warriors. WSU bounced back from a potentially devastating home loss to Southern Illinois to blow out Northern Iowa 73-55.
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"You could tell the whole trip that our minds were focused and ready to go," WSU senior Graham Hatch said. "I hate that we lost against Southern Illinois, but it almost sparked a fire in us this late in the season about what we need to do. I have a lot of confidence in us coming ready to play every night now."
The Shockers handled Evansville 91-57 on Dec. 29 in the MVC opener. The Shockers led 15-2 and by 13 points at halftime. Then they really poured it on — outscoring the Aces 53-32 in the second half. WSU walk-on Derek Brown scored six points in three minutes, as many or more than four Aces starters.
It won't be that easy tonight. Evansville has won five straight at Roberts Stadium.
In the first meeting, Aces guard Colt Ryan scored 18 points and got little help. He is no longer carrying such a large burden. During a recent four-game win streak, three other Aces led the team in scoring.
"When we've played our best offensive basketball, it's been when we've had good balance," Aces coach Marty Simmons said. "Teams have done a good job scouting towards Colt. He's done a good job of getting his teammates involved."
Balance is a regular feature for the Shockers. On Saturday, Hatch scored 13 points against UNI, his first MVC game in double figures. He made 5 of 7 shots, including two threes.
"Finally, I was able to shoot it a little better," Hatch said. "I guess you don't really notice it too much because you have great teammates who step in, but I'm glad I was able to step in and help out."
Hatch got the Shockers going early, scoring five of their first nine points. He hit one of the game's crucial shots — a corner three in the second half that ended a Panthers run and gave WSU a 53-47 lead with 10:09 to play. That basket started a 23-1 run.
"Hatch's shot was great in the corner," Marshall said. "He also had another one, where he passed up a three on the left wing and pulled up. Graham played great, but a lot of guys had good performances."