Wichita St.-Missouri St. Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Wichita State played one of its worst offensive games of the season its last time out, but coach Gregg Marshall wasn't about to complain after his squad earned its biggest win.
Just as they did in that contest, the 20th-ranked Shockers should get a boost from their conference-best defense when they visit struggling Missouri State on Wednesday night.
After a surprising loss at Evansville on Jan. 13, the Shockers have reeled off a pair of impressive victories - including Saturday's 67-64 home win over then-No. 12 Creighton to force a tie with the Bluejays atop the Missouri Valley Conference.
Wichita State (17-2, 6-1) survived despite shooting 38.0 percent from the field - tied for its second-worst mark of the season - and 4 of 23 from 3-point range.
Its 9-of-19 performance from the free-throw line was its worst, leaving Marshall wondering how his team was able to take down the Bluejays.
"I can't really explain it," Marshall said. "I'll take it and move on."
The Shockers' defense, though, hasn't been a problem. They lead the MVC in scoring defense (60.1), field-goal percentage defense (39.5) and blocks per game (4.8).
That likely won't bode well for Missouri State (5-14, 3-4), which ranks last in the conference in shooting percentage (40.9), 3-point percentage (30.6) and points per game (59.7).
The Bears, though, have been better offensively of late, shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range in conference play.
Missouri State allows 63.6 points per game to rank third in the MVC, though it will have to contend with Shockers forward Carl Hall, who seems to be fully recovered after missing seven games with a broken right thumb suffered in a loss to Tennessee on Dec. 13.
In his second game back Saturday, the senior scored 17 points and grabbed a season high-tying 13 rebounds while hitting 8 of 15 shots in 25 minutes off the bench.
Hall is averaging 13.2 points and has six double-doubles in 12 games.
"He's four weeks off major reconstructive surgery on his thumb," Marshall said. "That should tell you about the toughness of the guys in that locker room."
The Shockers took both meetings last season and have won seven of the last nine with Missouri State, which is coming off a heartbreaking 69-66 loss at Bradley on Saturday - its third straight defeat.
Anthony Downing, one of three Bears with 13 points, tied the score with 4.3 seconds remaining after his team trailed by as many as 16 points, but Bradley's Walt Lemon Jr. banked in a running 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
Downing, shooting 52.0 percent over his last five, is Missouri State's only player averaging in double figures at 14.2 points per game.
The Bears shot 39.1 percent in a 73-58 loss to the Shockers in the most recent meeting Feb. 15 as Downing scored a team-high 17 points.
Updated January 23, 2013