▪ Numerous scenes from road games demonstrate the rock-star popularity that the Shockers grew into since 2013.
Alabama fans waiting outside the locker room to get Fred VanVleet’s autograph. Fans coming to the hotel in Carbondale to see Ron Baker. There are more, of course, but those two stand out among the ones I witnessed.
The best moments came in the Gentile Center after games when VanVleet’s Rockford family and friends made the 85-mile drive to cheer for the Shockers.
They crowded the floor after the game and packed the hallway outside WSU’s tiny locker room. Parents, siblings, former teammates, coaches. The outpouring of support for VanVleet, and their pride in his career, explained why he cut such a unique path through college basketball.
VanVleet usually performed well in his return to the neighborhood. In his first two games there (2014 and 2015), he made 11 of 11 shots, 13 of 14 free throws and with 16 assists and 14 rebounds.
▪ The Ramblers (6-7 MVC) are part of the pack that doesn’t seem to want to finish third. They lost three in a row and are tied for fifth with MissourI State, losers of its past two. Southern Illinois (7-7) is in fourth after losing two in a row. Drake (5-9) is seventh and mired in a five-game losing streak.
Those flops opened the door for Northern Iowa (7-6) to win seven of eight games and pass them all. The Panthers beat Drake and SIU twice during that stretch, Loyola once.
▪ WSU no doubt discusssed defending Ramblers forward Aundre Jackson during its scouting report.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 junior, made all seven of his shots in the first meeting and scored 18 points. He made all seven shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com, accounting for all but three of Loyola’s baskets in that area. If the Shockers can control Jackson, and guard Milton Doyle, they can limit the Ramblers to jump shots to a large degree.
▪ To keep close to the Shockers, the Ramblers must control the tempo and make three-pointers. Loyola is one of the MVC’s most deliberate teams and that helps sustain a defense that lacks shot-blockers and depth.
Teams get 17.8 percent of their shots against Loyola in transition situations, according to hoop-math.com, which is second-fewest in the MVC.
▪ Doyle is always the focus of opposing defenses. The Shockers, with players such as Zach Brown and Markis McDuffie, are capable of keeping Doyle from reaching his highest possible outputs.
In the first meeting, he scored 23 points, but made 7 of 18 shots and missed seven of his eight three-pointers. The Shockers will take that.
Doyle also handed out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. He made 8 of 10 foul shots in what was probably his best overall effort against the Shockers in seven games.
For his career, Doyle is 34 of 84 (40.4 percent) from the field and 5 of 24 from three-point range against the Shockers. He has 27 assists and 25 turnovers. Doyle had to try to do more in previous seasons and it often showed. He has more help this season with the arrival of guard Clayton Custer and improvement from forward Donte Ingram.
The Ramblers are dangerous offensive team and they showed that in Koch Arena by shooting 45.5 percent from the field and making 10 of 14 foul shots. They trailed 49-35, however. Loyola scored 40 points in the second half and lost 87-75.
Wichita State at Loyola
- When: 3 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Gentile Center, Chicago
- Records: WSU 22-4, 12-1 MVC; LU 16-10, 6-7
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: ESPNU
- Online: ESPN3.com
Wichita State (22-4, 12-1 MVC): The Shockers won the first meeting 87-75 on Jan. 11. McDuffie made 8 of 11 shots, 4 of 5 behind the arc, to score 26 points, his career high. WSU made 12 of 27 threes. … WSU leads the Valley in scoring at 81.5 points in 13 conference games. Its scoring margin of plus-18.9 points. The top two margins in MVC history 22 (Cincinnati, 1959-60) and 20.6 (Cincinnati, 1957-58). WSU’s best is 15.7 in 2013-14, No. 5 in the MVC ranks. … Shamet went 2 for 4 from three-point range in Thursday’s win over Missouri State. He has made a three in 15 straight games. WSU’s record for a freshman is 16, set by Randy Burns in 2000-01.
Loyola (16-10, 6-7): Loyola is, by one stat, the MVC’s best offensive team and the worst defensive. According to kenpom.com, its effective field goal percentage of 56.9 leads the MVC. Opponents shoot a conference-best 53.7 percent against the Ramblers. They allow opponents to make 39.2 percent of their three-pointers and 51.2 percent of their two-point shots.… Doyle scored 23 points in the first meeting. He missed 7 of 8 threes and made 8 of 10 foul shots. … F Aundre Jackson made all seven of his shots against the Shockers to score 18 points. Jackson averages 14.1 points and shoots 68.7 percent from the field to lead the MVC. Besides Jackson, however, Loyola’s bench is a weak point. Reserves account for 25.3 percent of the team’s minutes, No. 323 nationally. Loyola’s reserves totaled seven points, eight rebounds two assists and five turnovers in Wednesday’s 60-58 loss at Evansville.
RPI rank as of Saturday: WSU 51, LU 151