▪ The season’s first meeting turned on Wichita State’s strong defensive play early in the game. The Ramblers missed their first six shots and committed a turnover before scoring on two free throws with 16:27 to play. They missed three more shots before a Montel James dunk gave them their first basket with 14:51 to play.
While the Shockers led only 8-4, they soon pushed that lead to 10 points and as many as 19 in the first half.
WSU held Loyola to 20 of 51 shooting in its 80-54 win.
▪ Loyola has won five of seven games with the losses to Illinois State and by one point at Evansville. That stretch includes a 14-point win at Southern Illinois, a win at Missouri State and a win over Northern Iowa.
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The Ramblers are an improved defensive team in that stretch. Since losing to Illinois State, Loyola held four of five opponents to under 33 percent from three-point range. In its past two home games, Evansville and Northern Iowa scored six second-half baskets.
▪ The Shockers will have a size advantage, one which Shaq Morris exploited for 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first meeting. WSU made 20 of 52 shots (53.8 percent) in that game. His matchuup with Loyola’s Montel James is important. James’ play has been one of the keys for the Ramblers and he scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win at Missouri State.
In three games against the Shockers, James averages 6.3 points an 2.0 rebounds.
▪ It is senior night for Loyola’s James, Earl Peterson, Devon Turk and Jeff White. It is also a farewell for WSU’s Fred VanVleet, who will play in front a sizable group of fans from nearby Rockford, Ill., for the final time. Loyola is the closest MVC city to Rockford and I expect at least 40 friends and family to make the trip.
VanVleet is 12-2 in his career in MVC games in Illinois, losing at Southern Illinois in 2013 and at Illinois State this season.
▪ Seeding possibilities for the MVC Tournament and final opponent:
Wichita State (14-2): 1 — Illinois State
Evansville (12-5): 2-3 — UNI
Illinois State (11-5): 2-3-4-5 — at Wichita State
Southern Illinois (10-6): 3-4-5— Missouri State
UNI (9-7): 4-5-6-7-8— at Evansville
Loyola (7-9): 5-6-7-8 — at Drake
Indiana State (7-9): 5-6-7-8— Bradley
Missouri State (7-9): 5-6-7-8 — at Southern Illinois
Bradley (3-14): 9-10— at Indiana State
Drake (1-15): 9-10 -- Loyola
WICHITA STATE AT LOYOLA
▪ When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
▪ Where: Gentile Arena, Chicago
▪ Records: WSU 21-7, 14-2 MVC; 14-14, 7-9
▪ Radio: KEYN 103.7-FM
▪ TV: Cox 22