#22 Wichita State (15-5, 9-0) at Evansville (18-4, 7-2)
When: Sunday, January 31st 2016
Where: Ford Center, Evansville, IN
Time: 4:00 ET | TV: ESPNU
The Wichita State Shockers put their perfect conference record on the line when they visit the Evansville Purple Aces on Sunday. The Shockers have won 10 consecutive games and nine of them have come by double-digits with the lone single-digit win coming back on January 6th – a 67-64 win over Evansville. Wichita State tuned up for this contest by defeating Loyola Chicago 80-54 on Wednesday as 15 players saw action in the game with 12 of them scoring points. Senior guards Ron Baker (14.7) and Fred VanVleet (12.2 points, 5.4 assists) are the lone players scoring in double-digits but six others average at least 6.7 per game. Shaquille Morris scored 12 points against the Ramblers in only 16 minutes and is averaging 10.7 points on 14-of-18 shooting over the past three contests. VanVleet is the floor leader on this squad and the 79.3% foul-shooter has hit 24 of his last 27 free-throws covering eight games. The Shockers’ defense has allowed the 7th least points per game in the country at 61.5 holding their last three opponents to 55 or less. Wichita State has won six straight against Evansville and 11 of the last 13.
The slick-shooting Purple Aces can make things interesting in the Missouri Valley Conference with a victory today. They sit just two games behind Wichita State and have won five of their last six overall since their loss at Wichita State. Evansville is second in the nation in field goal percentage (52.1) and they have the country’s leading rebounder in Egidijus Mockevicius. The Purple Aces are coming off an 85-78 overtime victory at Southern Illinois in which leading scorer D.J. Balentine (21.3) scored 25 points to go along with his 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Mislav Brzoja also scored 25 and was the only bench player to score a point. The rest of the bench played just five minutes which is a complete contrast to what the Shockers do. Brzoja also shoots a team-best 48.9% from three-point range. Balentine is just 44 points away from becoming the leading scorer in school history, but was held to a season-low 14 points in the earlier matchup with Wichita State. Evansville could use a quality win before Selection Sunday and this would certainly qualify as one.
Evansville is a solid team that held their own at Wichita State earlier this month. I think they can do the same at home and maybe even pull off the upset. I’ll take the home dog.
Pick: Evansville +4