WICHITA STATE (18-4, 9-2 MVC) AT MISSOURI STATE (13-10, 5-6 MVC)
Time: 8:05 p.m.
Location: JQH Arena
Wichita State 31 (No. 2 Missouri Valley)
Missouri State 81 (No. 4 Missouri Valley)
Line: Wichita State -5 (O/U 130)
Wichita State Players to Watch: G Joe Ragland, 6-0 Sr. (12.7 ppg, 3.4 apg, 54.3% FG); C Garrett Stutz, 7-0 Sr. (13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 58.1% FG); G Toure’ Murry, 6-5 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg). Stutz is playing the best basketball, and for the most part, is staying out of foul trouble. In his last two games, the 7-footer has played 77 minutes, made 19-of-27 shots, 11-of-13 free throws, scored 50 points, grabbed 13 boards and blocked four shots.
Missouri State Players to Watch: F Kyle Weems, 6-6 Sr. (16 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 40.2% 3s); G/F Jarmar Gulley, 6-4 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 48% FG); G Michael Bizoukas, 6-2 Sr. (4.8 ppg, 6 apg, 3.5 rpg). Weems – the 2010-11 Missouri Valley Player of the Year – had the 13th double-double of his career with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s 63-51 home win over Northern Iowa. He has scored in double figures 102 times during his college career.
Storylines: After Saturday’s triple-overtime loss at Drake, this becomes a huge game in the Missouri Valley regular-season championship race for the Shockers. The loss ended their 8-game winning streak and dropped them a game behind league-leader Creighton. Since handing No. 19 Creighton its only MVC loss of the season on Dec. 28, Missouri State has gone just 5-5.
Keys: The Bears will be playing without 6-foot-11 center Caleb Patterson, who would have drawn the assignment against Stutz. Patterson injured his right ankle for the second time this season and there is no timetable for his return. Patterson was averaging 12.7 points, three rebounds and was shooting 49 percent from the floor. Gulley and Anthony Downing, who scored 16 points in Patterson’s absence on Saturday, will try to make up for his loss. Wichita State is the second-leading scoring team in the MVC behind Creighton. The Shockers are averaging 78.2 points per game, are allowing just 62.8 per game and are shooting 47.9 percent from the floor. Missouri State is in the middle of the conference back at 67.9 points per contest, while surrendering 62.7. The Bears shoot 34.7 percent from the 3-point line and WSU allows opponents to shoot only 29.3, which is best in the league. Wichita State should have a big advantage on the boards. It leads the conference in rebounds per game (38.6) and rebounding margin (plus-6.6). One key for the Bears will be turnovers. They get 4.5 steals per game and are second in the league with a 1.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 16th in the nation. Bizoukas is third nationally with a 3.39-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is 21st in the nation at six assists per contest. The Bears average just 10.4 turnovers per night, which leads the MVC and is fifth in all of college basketball. The Shockers are third at 1.2-to-1. Missouri State is 2-4 in its last six games, but two of the losses came in overtime and the other two were by a single point. The Bears have beaten Wichita State four of the last five times the two sides have met, including a 69-64 win last Feb. 26 in Springfield in their last meeting. Weems had 11 points and nine boards in the victory. The Bears are 30-27 all-time against the Shockers, including 20-6 in Springfield. Missouri State is 7-4 at home this season and is just 3-3 on its own floor in MVC play, including recent back-to-back losses to Evansville (87-82 in OT on Jan. 15) and Creighton (66-65 on Jan. 18). The Shockers won their first six games on the road this season before the triple-overtime loss at Drake on Saturday. The defeat ended their 17-game conference road winning streak. The two teams will meet again in Wichita on Feb. 15.
The Bottom Line: It’s hard to imagine the Shockers aren’t a bit weary after a tough loss in Cedar Falls, but they’re an experience, senior-dominated team and should have enough to get the win. The Bears’ trend of losing close games continues.
The Pick: Wichita State 69, Missouri State 67
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 53-28