Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - It is a meeting pitting the worst vs. first from the Missouri Valley Conference, as the third-ranked Wichita State Shockers put their undefeated record on the line tonight against the slumping Loyola-Chicago Ramblers at Gentile Arena.
The Shockers are one of 21 teams in NCAA history to start a season undefeated through 27 games and are currently just one of two programs at the Division I level this season to be undefeated at this point in the campaign, the other being top-ranked Syracuse of course.
On Sunday, the Shockers continued to dominate in league play with an 84-68 triumph over Evansville on the road, moving the squad to an impressive 14-0 in league action. Tonight, Wichita State has a chance to lock up the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a win, coupled with an Indiana State loss to the Purple Aces.
As for the Ramblers, a team which is 33-122 all-time against ranked foes and only 8-43 when going up against opponents who are in the top-five, they enter play on Wednesday tied with Evansville for last place in the MVC at just 4-10. The team last took the floor on Friday and lost at Drake, 70-62, which means Loyola is still winless over the course of 12 true road games in 2013-14. The team has dropped two straight overall and five of the last six.
The Shockers won the first meeting of the season three weeks ago by a score of 57-45 at home, which means the all-time series now stands at 19-9 in favor of Wichita State.
For the second game in a row, Ron Baker was the star of the show for the Shockers as he delivered a career-high 26 points in the victory versus Evansville on the road Sunday afternoon. Baker knocked down 10-of-17 shots from the floor and all three of his free-throw tries as the team connected on all but one of 21 chances at the charity stripe. Fred VanVleet stepped up with 18 points, Cleanthony Early 13 and Tekele Cotton 12 points for the squad as well.
Early, named the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, needs only 18 points to reach 1,000 for his WSU career, after having transferred from Sullivan County Community College in New York. He has scored in double figures in all but two games this season and is averaging 16.4 ppg in league action, so it shouldn't be long before he reaches the milestone. In addition to Anthony being a double-digit scorer in conference play, so too are Baker (12.6 ppg) and VanVleet (12.4 ppg), the latter responsible for 74 assists, against just 20 turnovers, in those 14 bouts.
Defensively, the Shockers have managed to limit league opponents to a mere 59.1 ppg, stemming from 39.5 percent shooting from the floor and just 64.5 percent accuracy at the free-throw line.
Before fouling out, Milton Doyle stepped up with a double-double, the first of his career, as he posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Ramblers suffered the road loss at Drake over the weekend. Christian Thomas accounted for 16 points as well for Loyola, but the team shot just 40-8 percent from the field, compared to 51.1 percent for the Bulldogs, and knocked down a disappointing 5-of-17 behind the 3-point line.
One of four players to have started all 14 conference outings, Doyle leads the group in scoring with 16.4 ppg and is also first with 55 assists, but clearly the team is not taking advantage of his contributions. Thomas checks in with 13.5 ppg and is tops on the glass with 6.4 rpg, ahead of Doyle with his 5.3 rpg, but still the program is being beaten in that department on a regular basis. Offensively, the Ramblers are producing just 65.0 ppg, compared to 67.3 ppg for the competition.