SIU men’s basketball has the opportunity to avenge its biggest loss of the season Wednesday when the team travels to Charles Koch Arena to take on the No. 21 Wichita State Shockers.
Saluki coach Barry Hinson has defeated Shocker coach Gregg Marshall just twice in 11 contests; once as Missouri State’s coach in 2008 and once as SIU’s coach in 2013.
A win will give Marshall the most wins in WSU program history and push his team’s win streak to 12 games. The Salukis (18-5, 7-3 Missouri Valley Conference) will likely need to have their best performance of the season to prevent that from happening.
Wichita State (16-5, 10-0 MVC) comes into the game averaging a plus-20.3 scoring margin in conference games this season. If the season ended today, that would be the best point differential in the last 20 years of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Only one MVC team has lost by fewer than 15 points to Wichita State. Evansville lost by three Jan. 6 in Wichita and lost by 13 on Wednesday in Evansville.
The Salukis lost their first matchup with Wichita State by 25 points, in front of a sold-out home crowd.
The blowout loss was the 25th sellout in SIU Arena history and the Dawgs’ first conference loss of the season. Wichita State will most likely have a big crowd Wednesday as the Shockers have sold out 41 consecutive home games.
“It’s a cool place to play, it’s always sold out,” junior forward Sean O’Brien said. “The communication is harder — you really got to be on point.”
After No. 23 Arizona’s loss to No. 16 Oregon last week, Wichita State now owns the longest home winning streak in the country at 42 straight games.
“That’s my dream to play in these big arenas,” junior guard Mike Rodriguez said. “I’ve been waiting for that moment.”
A capacity crowd of 10,506 would be the largest the Salukis have seen this season; almost 2,000 more than the season-high 8,758 fans they saw Dec. 21 at Saint Louis.
The Shocker crowd will hope for a repeat of the team’s performance the last time it saw SIU.
Wichita shot 46.6 percent (27-58) from the floor in its previous game against the Dawgs and got double-digit contributions from three players: senior guard Ron Baker (18 points), sophomore guard Conner Frankamp (14) and freshman forward Markis McDuffie (10).
There are two things about this that should concern the Salukis: Baker scored 16 of his points in the first half then sat most of the second half, showing he’s capable of more. Plus, senior guard Fred VanVleet, an Oscar Robertson Award watchlist member, didn’t contribute much to the scoring. His numbers from the last matchup (six points, six assists and 12 rebounds) show he can affect games even when he isn’t getting buckets.
VanVleet comes into the contest averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.
When Baker and VanVleet aren’t on the floor, the Shocker bench is dangerous, too. WSU’s bench leads the MVC in points per game, scoring 30.3 points per game. That is good enough for 13th in Division I.
WSU also has a knack for stopping the Salukis and senior guard Anthony Beane in particular. Beane, a career 43.8 percent shooter, has shot just 33.7 percent against the Shockers in eight career matchups. He shot 3-14 from the floor in the Jan. 9 game.
The entire SIU team struggled in the last meeting, shooting 37 percent overall (17-46) and 9 percent (1-11) from 3-point range.
Rodriguez and Tyler Smithpeters must improve upon their combined 3-point performance against Wichita in January for the Salukis to stand a chance.
On the other side of the ball, SIU must step up its defense and not allow so many open looks to the talented Shockers.
If SIU does lose, Marshall would pass former Saluki coach Rich Herrin for sixth-most all-time MVC wins at 112. Marshall will have accomplished the feat in nine seasons, while Herrin needed 13.
Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3304.