Feels like a turning point game for the Shockers (and the Panthers) today. If WSU can win this one, the schedule looks less imposing for the next three games – at SIU and Missouri State and Drake at home. Winning today keeps WSU in first place and in the national rankings. While a loss doesn’t kill any of the season goals, it will mean the Shockers are working from behind. UNI is also in a tough spot. The Panthers are 4-6 in the MVC after losing two straight close games. The guess is both teams likely went through several days of hard practices with unhappy coaches.The Shockers can reach the 20-win level for the fourth straight season, an unprecedented run of consistency. Teams play more games these days, so that history is somewhat misleading (Ralph Miller’s teams won 18, 18 and 19 before winning 20-plus in days when teams played around 26 total). Still, it’s a noteworthy accomplishment, especially because Marshall’s teams are blowing by 20 wins and they don’t need an appearance in the CBI or CIT to do it. His past three teams have won 70 percent or more of their games, something Miller did not do (in consecutive seasons) and Gene Smithson did from 1981-83.In its Division I history (since 1945-46), the Shockers own 14 20-win seasons. Six of those happened since 2003-04.WSU last lost back-to-back MVC games in 2009, when it lost at Drake and Missouri State. It last lost back-to-back regular-season games in 2010, when it lost at Utah State and at Bradley. It did end last season with losses to Illinois State and VCU in post-season tournaments.Former Shocker Garrett Stutz is in the NBA D-League with the Maine Red Claws. The Red Claws play Rio Grande Valley tonight, with Toure Murry.
Wichita State (19-3, 8-2): WSU coach Gregg Marshall is 128-64 in six seasons. He needs one win to pass Mark Turgeon's total from 2000-07. Ralph Miller (220) and Gene Smithson (155) are 1-2.... WSU has won four straight over the Panthers, including a 73-55 win in 2011 that is UNI's largest defeat in seven seasons at the McLeod Center.... WSU out-rebounded UNI 40-22 in the December meeting. Early led four Shockers in double figures with 16 points.... Williams is 8 of 39 (20.5 percent) from three-point range in 10 MVC games, lowering his season percentage to 28.4 (21 of 74).
Northern Iowa (11-11, 4-6): WSU held the Panthers to 15-of-46 shooting and 3 of 17 on three-pointers in December at Koch Arena. Koch led UNI with seven points.... Sonnen is shooting 49.1 percent from three-point range, third nationally. He is 41 for 71 in his last 15 games.... UNI leads the MVC by making 75.7 percent of its free throws. It attempted two free throws, making one, in Tuesday's 54-51 overtime loss at Evansville.... UNI's reserves totaled 12 points in the past two games, losses at Indiana State and Evansville.
RPIs as of Friday: WSU 24, UNI 109