Wichita State Shockers

Paul Suellentrop’s MVC report: Evansville banks on its seniors

Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh, right, appeared to be injured Saturday but coach Dan Muller wouldn’t confirm it to reporters Monday.
Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh, right, appeared to be injured Saturday but coach Dan Muller wouldn’t confirm it to reporters Monday. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall holds his weekly press conference. WSU cracked the top 25 for the first time on Monday as the Shockers prepare for their final home game against Evansville on Tuesday. (Video by Bo Rader / Kansas.com)

Never give up on seniors.

A month ago, Wichita State defeated Evansville 82-65. David Howard played six minutes without scoring for the Aces. Christian Benzon made a free throw in his 11 minutes.

Evansville (14-15, 5-11 MVC) visits Koch Arena on Tuesday for the rematch. You will see much more of Howard and Benzon. They are two of the key figures in a four-game win streak that ended Saturday at Bradley.

Howard, a 6-foot-8 center, averages 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds over his past eight games, including a career-high 21 points vs. Drake. In his first 20 games, he scored in double figures once.

Benzon, a 6-4 guard, started the past five games and played 32 or more minutes in all. He averages 7.4 points in those games.

“(Howard’s) been really aggressive,” coach Marty Simmons said. “He’s done a nice job of getting the ball in (good) positions. He’s a really skilled post player who can score over either shoulder.”

The Aces spent much of the season searching for scorers to complement Jaylon Brown and Ryan Taylor. Howard and Benzon are helping. So is junior guard Boo Gibson, who scored a career-high 27 points in a win at Southern Illinois.

“When we have others step up and contribute … it makes us a much more effective offensive team,” Simmons said.

The Aces are likely headed to the play-in round of the MVC Tournament. Sunday’s 84-72 loss at Bradley probably killed their chance to finish in the top six. But the Aces are a different team than the one that lost nine straight in MVC play.

Bob Lutz and Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle discuss Wichita State's 73-44 win over Northern Iowa.

Fast breaks

▪  Illinois State forward MiKyle McIntosh fell to the floor after his right knee buckled in the final seconds of Sunday’s win over Loyola.

Redbirds coach Dan Muller declined to provide a detailed update on Monday.

“Nobody’s said he suffered an injury, yet, first of all,” Muller said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

McIntosh missed five games his month after having surgery for a torn right meniscus. He played in Illinois State’s past two games, both narrow victories.

“It’s hard to have a player come in and out of the lineup,” Muller said. “I’d like to get us back to full strength. I don’t think we’re going to be playing our best basketball again until we have everybody in there with the right rotations.”

The Redbirds play Southern Illinois on Wednesday.

▪  Drake’s women’s team climbed three spots to No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25. The Bulldogs (22-0) are 15-0 in the MVC, the best record in conference history.

The Bulldogs are the first MVC team in the rankings since No. 24 Wichita State in 2014. They can clinch the MVC title on Friday against second-place Northern Iowa.

Trending up

Missouri State junior Alize Johnson should be the MVC’s Newcomer of the Year after shining in a strong year for newcomers. Johnson went for 20 and 20 for the second time this season against Drake on Saturday with 23 points and 21 rebounds. He ranks eighth in the MVC in scoring (14.5 points) and is first with an average of 10.7 rebounds.

Trending down

The MVC’s long and productive relationship with the NIT is fraying. No Valley team played in the NIT last season. If WSU and Illinois State make the NCAA Tournament, there is no MVC candidate for the NIT.

Get to know an MVC neighbor

Q: Which current MVC school besides Wichita State and Northern Iowa most recently finished ranked in the top 50 of the RPI?

A: Missouri State at No. 39 in 2011.

One to watch

Illinois State (23-5, 15-1 MVC) at Northern Iowa (14-13, 9-7), 1 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network) — The Redbirds, who play Southern Illinois on Wednesday, are on upset alert after two close calls. They defeated Missouri State 67-66 last week and Loyola 65-63 on Sunday.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop