Key statistics: SIU committed 17 turnovers, missed 29 of its 46 shots and recorded two assists. That is a picture of an offense in distress. The Shockers took guard Anthony Beane out of the game with a 3-of-14 shooting performance and the Salukis had nobody else to turn to.
WSU made 12 of 24 three-pointers and shot 46.6 percent from the field for the game. It didn’t even need a big game from its big men, who fumbled some easy opportunities and didn’t respond well to SIU’s physical defense. Shaq Morris and Anton Grady combined to make 4 of 12 shots, score 10 points and commit four turnovers.
How the game turned: Beane, locked up by Zach Brown, missed his first three shots. WSU went up 18-6. He made a three-pointer, guarded by freshman Markis McDuffie, committed a turnover and then missed his next two shots. By the time he scored again, WSU led by 12 points. Beane went 2 for 9 in the first half with two turnovers.
Records: WSU 10-5, 4-0 MVC; SIU 14-3, 3-1
Stat that might suprise you: Wichita State’s bench went 7 for 12 from three-point range. When the Shockers make 50 percent of their threes without Fred VanVleet (0-1) contributing, it’s a fantastic shooting night and evidence the offense clicked.
VanVleet grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, two more than his previous best against Missouri State on his triple-double night last season.
Those rebounds put him over 500 for his career and made him the second player in MVC history with 1,000 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. Indiana State’s Jake Odum is the other.
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Stat that won’t surprise you: VanVleet had six assists and no turnovers. In 82 games as a starter, it is his 18th without a turnover, 11 of those with with five or more assists.
He averages 5.1 assists a game, which would rank second in the MVC behind Northern Iowa’s Wes Washpun (5.8). VanVleet has not yet appeared in enough games to meet the mimimum standards, although he is close at 73.3 percent. Assuming he plays at Missouri State on Wednesday, he will reach the 75-percent minimum and enter the MVC leaders.
Then the race is on.
VanVleet has a chance to become the fourth MVC player to lead the conference in assists three straight seasons. He would join Bradley’s Jim Les (1984-86) and Anthony Manuel (1987-89) and Illinois State’s Jamar Smiley (1996-98).
Freshman watch: Markis McDuffie scored 10 points and had two assists in 18 minutes. He also did credible work guarding Beane, one game after chasing Evansville’s D.J. Balentine in another solid effort.
“I appreciate coaches putting me on the best guy,” McDuffie said. “I’m willing to guard anyone if I’m focused and locked in. I’m going to keep focusing on what they’re good at and see if I can go out there and guard them.”
In MVC games, McDuffie averages 12 points on 8-of-13 shooting in two road games and 4.5 points on 2-of-8 shooting in two at Koch Arena. Next up, another road game.
“For some reason I play better on the road,” he said. “I just know road games are very tough. The scouting is more precise (in MVC games) and you’ve got to be very focused because you’re going to play them a couple more times and you want to know now, you’ll be ready for the next time.”
Why they’re All-Americans: Baker carried WSU to its 43-29 halftime lead with 16 points, despite taking a bump to the head that required four stitches to close after the game.
“Baker was tremendous,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He had a play today that many people will overlook. It was a 3-on-1 and he was the one. He stunts at the ball, stunts at the ball and steals the pass. He has moxie like that to make plays and he never gives up on either possession on either end.”
Baker finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Rotation watch: Conner Frankamp came off the bench to score 14 points, making 4 of 7 three-pointers with an assist. He is now shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range and has three turnovers in 10 games.
“I thought Markis McDuffie and Conner Frankamp were really good offensively,” Marshall said. “Markis was driving it and getting baskets in the mid-range and off the offensive glass. Conner was shooting it well. It gives us another option, another play-maker, another guy that can get buckets.”
▪ Wichita State’s RPI moved from 63 on Friday to 45 on Sunday, likely helped by Utah’s win at Colorado and Southern Cal’s wins over Arizona State and Arizona. Even woeful Saint Louis contributed a win over George Washington to, momentarily, move the Billikens into the top 200 of the RPI.
UNLV has lost five of six, stripping that Shockers win of any usefulness at this point.
Around the MVC:
Wichita State’s win and Illinois State’s 77-65 loss at Indiana State produced a four-way tie for second with the Redbirds, Sycamores, Salukis and Evansville all 3-1.
Illinois State, which led by 13 points in the first half, plays at SIU on Tuesday.
Next up: at Missouri State (6-10, 2-2), 8 p.m. Wednesday (Cox 22, KEYN, 103.7-FM)
The Bears defeated Loyola 56-54 on Dequon Miller’s third buzzer-beater of the season on Saturday. The Shockers could see two of the MVC’s more promising young players in sophomore forward Chris Kendrix (who missed most of the game with back spasms) and freshman forward Obediah Church.