Springfield, MO (Sports Network) - The 20th-ranked Wichita State Shockers hope to continue their reign atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings on Wednesday night, as they travel to JQH Arena in Springfield for a clash with the Missouri State Bears.
Wichita State hosted nationally-ranked Creighton last Saturday and came away with a 67-64 triumph to improve to 6-1 in the MVC. The Shockers, who spent time in the AP Poll earlier this season, got off to a 9-0 start and are now 17-2, thus reintroducing them to the poll following the big win over the Bluejays.
Missouri State experienced a lengthy eight-game losing streak to close out its non-conference schedule only to respond with a 3-1 start to MVC play. Since that turnaround however, the Bears have fallen back to Earth with three straight losses, most recently dropping a 69-66 decision at Bradley last Saturday, as they sit with a dismal 5-14 overall record.
Although Wichita State swept Missouri State in the season series a year ago, the Bears hold a 30-29 lead in the all-time series, which includes a 20-7 mark in Springfield.
Wichita State led Creighton for virtually the entire game, and although it spent much of the second half nursing a one-possession advantage, it was able to seal the deal with a pair of free throws by Malcolm Armstead in the final minute. The Shockers had far from their most efficient shooting performance (.380), but they hung on for the win by holding the usually-potent Bluejays to 23-of-55 shooting (.418) and by winning the turnover battle by a 14-7 margin. Carl Hall was a difference-maker coming off the bench, tallying a double- double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Armstead (15 points), Cleanthony Early (13 points) and Demetric Williams (10 points) were also effective. Hall (13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg) has been a welcomed addition to the lineup after missing seven games earlier in the season with an injury. Early is the team's leading scorer with 15.4 ppg on nearly 50 percent field goal efficiency, and Armstead chips in with 9.5 ppg, 3.8 apg and 2.1 spg. As a team, Wichita State has been stellar scoring the ball (70.7 ppg), while also leading the MVC in scoring defense (60.1 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.395), and rebounding margin (+8.3).
Down by as many as 16 points against Bradley last Saturday, Missouri State mounted an improbable comeback to tie the game with three seconds remaining on an Anthony Downing layup, only to fall victim to a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Downing, Marcus Marshall and Gavin Thurman all sparked the comeback bid with 13 points apiece, with Downing and Marshall combining to go a perfect 13-of-13 from the foul line. The hot shooting by the Bears down the stretch against Bradley was more the exception than the rule, as they are the MVC's worst offensive team, ranking last in scoring offense (59.7 ppg), field goal percentage (.403), 3-point percentage (.306) and free throw percentage (.634). Downing is one of the team's only consistent performers, leading the way in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (2.7 apg) and steals (1.3 spg). Marshall adds 9.9 ppg for Missouri State, which is able to keep most of its contests close by sporting a solid scoring defense (63.6 ppg).