Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wichita State looks to build momentum towards March at Loyola


Fresh off its third straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season title after defeating Illinois State 84-51 on Feb. 21, the Wichita State Shockers are in prime position to make another run in the NCAA Tournament.

Wichita State (21-7, 14-2 MVC) overcame a hamstring injury from senior Fred VanVleet, which forced him to miss four games in non-conference play.

Three of the four games VanVleet missed were losses at the AdvoCare Invitational to potential postseason teams in Alabama, USC and Iowa in late November.

To make matters worse, the Shockers entered conference play at 6-5 and a 1-4 mark against the Power 6 schools—unfamiliar territory given their recent success in postseason play.

With a chip on their shoulders and ready to prove any doubters wrong about its mundane performances in November and December, Wichita State plowed its way through the MVC winning  the first 11 games and climbed as high as No. 21 in the Associated Press Poll on Feb. 1.

The Shockers unexpectedly dropped two of their next three games to Illinois State and Northern Iowa and looked to be back on the bubble for the tournament.

With a full compliment of players at its disposal, Wichita State responded with three consecutive wins and will look to carry momentum into Wednesday night's game on the road against Loyola (CHI) (14-14, 7-9 MVC) at the Gentile Center.

The Ramblers look to win five out of their last six games overall and will count on senior Montel James to carry the load. James leads the team in points (12.3) and rebounds (6.6) per game.

Senior leadership is the name of the game for the Shockers as Ron Baker leads the team in points (13.8) and rebounds (4.8) per game.

This is the 33rd meeting all-time as Loyola looks for its first win in the series against Wichita State since joining the MVC in 2013.

In the last meeting between the teams on Jan. 27, Loyola's James and Earl Peterson scored 11 each, while Shaquille Morris and Rashard Kelly combined for 23 points and 10 rebounds in Wichita State's 80-54 win.

Game Planner:

Wichita State at Loyola (CHI)

Time: Wednesday, 8 p.m. CT

TV: CSN Chicago+/ESPN3

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