GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Wichita Shockers put their perfect record on the line this afternoon as they clash with the Tennessee Volunteers in non- conference action at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Shockers have built an impressive record in the early going this season, although the competition has been far from challenging with the likes of Emporia State and William & Mary appearing on the schedule during the first week. More recently, the squad produced a 71-58 victory over Oral Roberts at home a week ago in order to remain undefeated through nine games.
The Volunteers have hit a couple of stumbling blocks over the course of eight games, but since bowing to UTEP (78-70) on Nov. 28 the team has rattled off three consecutive victories. The most recent triumph came against Tennessee Tech last Saturday in an 84-63 final at home.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Shockers have taken two of the first three encounters, although it was Tennessee that claimed a 69-60 victory in the latest clash last season at this time.
Ahead by just a single point at the break against Tennessee Tech, the Vols dialed up the pressure in the second half, allowing the visitors to convert a total of just 10 field goals, not to mention watching Tech make a mere 1-of-7 at the free-throw line over the final 20 minutes. Offensively, Tennessee was paced by Jarnell Stokes with his 19 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Jordan McRae with 16 points. Not to be missed were Jeronne Maymon and Josh Richardson with 13 points apiece as they combined to shoot 10-of-17 from the field in a game that featured six ties and 14 lead changes.
McRae is responsible for 18.8 ppg and is also tied for the team lead with 18 assists currently, while Stokes puts up another 14.9 ppg and handles a good bit of the action on the interior by pulling down 10.0 rpg. As a group, the Volunteers are outscoring the competition by 12.4 ppg and also beating those foes on the glass by 10.1 rpg, having limited opponents to an average of just under 10 offensive rebounds per contest.
Falling behind by a 7-2 score right out of the gate against Oral Roberts last weekend, the Shockers appeared to be completely off their game as they shot a dismal 6-of-27 (.222) from the floor in the first half, including 0-of-7 behind the 3-point line. The team turned it around in the second half by converting 54.1 percent from the field and limiting the visitors to just eight total field goals over the final 20 minutes. Cleanthony Early accounted for 16 points, followed by Chadrack Lufile with 14 and seven rebounds. Darius Carter pitched in with 12 points and six boards in 16 minutes off the bench, while Tekele Cotton tacked on 11 points and seven boards of his own.
Ron Baker, who tallied nine points, eight rebounds and four assists last weekend, remains the top overall scorer for WSU with his 15.3 ppg, thanks to 51.2 percent accuracy from the field, Close behind lurks Early with 14.3 ppg, not to mention a team-best 6.4 rpg which helps to compensate for the fact that he has just 10 assists in close to 250 minutes of playing time. Fred VanVleet (11.7 ppg) makes up for Early's deficiencies in the passing department with his 50 assists for a team that is outscoring opponents by 18.1 ppg.
One of the better defenses in the country, the Shockers have limited foes to just 38.8 percent shooting from the field overall and 27.5 percent out on the perimeter, but Tennessee is far from a pushover, so assume the challenge to lock down on the Vols will be much harder to meet today.