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Pregame update: No. 15 Wichita State at Loyola

Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet scored 22 points in last season’s 88-74 win at Gentile Arena.
Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet scored 22 points in last season’s 88-74 win at Gentile Arena.

▪  Wichita State plays small lineups out of choice. Loyola has no choice — one player on its roster is listed taller than 6-foot-7 and 6-9 freshman Julius Rajala rarely plays.

The Ramblers make the most of playing small and senior Christian Thomas is a big part of their success. On Wednesday, he tortured Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius by luring him away from the lane. Mockevicius is a shot-blocker who isn’t use to guarding on the perimeter. Thomas scored 16 points and made 7 of 9 shots and 2 of 3 three-pointers.

For the season, Thomas is 11 of 21 from three, so WSU’s big men will be prepared to guard him at the arc. That may mean this isn’t much of a game for freshman Shaq Morris or junior Bush Wamukota. If Montel James plays, the scouting report changes. He hasn’t attempted a three all season. James, a junior transfer, missed the Evansville game with a sprained ankle.

It won’t surprise me if we see WSU playing Evan Wessel at the five. He appears to be a perfect match-up with Thomas. If James sits, the Ramblers play five guys willing to shoot threes.

▪  Fred VanVleet will play around 80 miles from his home of Rockford, Ill. Last season, he played one of his top games in Gentile Arena — 22 points on 6-of-6 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists and one turnover. He made all 10 of his free throws.

VanVleet has played seven games as a Shocker in his home state. He is 6-1 with the lone loss at Southern Illinois in 2013.

He has made 24 of 45 shots (53.3 percent) and 8 of 14 threes. From the line, he is 17 of 17. He totaled 27 assists and nine turnovers. He averaged 10.4 points and 2.9 rebounds.

▪  Wichita State needs to win to keep pace with Indiana State, which improved to 4-0 on this three by Devonte Brown at Southern Illinois. The Sycamores own a win at Illinois State and a home win over Evansville, both teams that figure to finish in the top half.

The Wichita Eagle: Ramblers fans respond to early success.

The Wichita Eagle: Defenders rewarded for sacrificing their body in the lane.

Bob Lutz: Former Shocker Jamie Thompson never lost his shot.

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