Davidson-Wichita St. Preview

The Associated Press

Looking to extend the best start in school history, Wichita State could be in for a difficult test before opening Missouri Valley Conference play next week.

The 10th-ranked Shockers hope to shore things up defensively while staying unbeaten Sunday against visiting Davidson, which nearly upset a ranked foe on the road in its last contest.

Following the holiday break, Wichita State (12-0) returns to action for the first time since holding off stubborn North Carolina Central 77-66 at Koch Arena last Sunday.

Junior college transfer Darius Carter led the Shockers with a career-high 19 points in his first start. Cleanthony Early contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds, Ron Baker added 15 points and four steals, and Fred VanVleet had 14 points and eight assists.

"There's a lot of pressure as a team being undefeated this late into the season," Baker said after Wichita State survived a second-half rally by the Eagles.

The Shockers have averaged 77.1 points while allowing 61.4 per game during the best start in program history, but are coming off possibly their worst defensive effort. They allowed season highs of 51.1 percent shooting and 10 3-pointers last Sunday.

"We were not doing the things we wanted to do defensively," said coach Gregg Marshall, whose squad has allowed only two opponents to reach 70 points.

Now they'll try for their 25th consecutive non-conference home victory before opening MVC play at Southern Illinois on Thursday.

Dominance on the boards has keyed Wichita State's success, ranking among national leaders with a plus-8.9 margin after outrebounding North Carolina Central 37-22.

Early, a senior forward, is averaging team highs of 15.3 points and 6.3 boards.

"(The Eagles) were outrebounding their opponents so to outrebound them by 15 is really good," Marshall said. "Cleanthony really looked vertical."

The Shockers' strong play on the glass doesn't bode well for Davidson (4-8), which has a minus-5.0 margin after getting outrebounded 89-73 in its last two games.

Though the Wildcats have dropped three straight, they nearly pulled off a stunning upset in their most recent game last Saturday at No. 19 North Carolina. Brian Sullivan enjoyed a breakout performance with a career-high 33 points while hitting 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the 97-85 overtime loss.

The sophomore transfer had averaged 12.5 points and hit 28.9 percent from beyond the arc heading into the contest.

"I think this is what Brian is capable of doing," coach Bob McKillop said. "This is why we're excited about him playing for us."

McKillop's squad dropped its other three matchups with Top 25 teams this season by an average of 22.7 points but had won its previous two true road games, including one in overtime against a Charlotte team which is 8-3.

Plus, the two-time defending Southern Conference champions have had a week off to further integrate De'Mon Brooks back into the mix. The league's preseason player of the year had 13 points last Saturday in his return after missing six games with a groin injury.

Brooks, averaging a team-high 16.3 points, scored 10 in a 91-74 home loss to then-No. 24 Wichita State in the programs' only meeting on Feb. 18, 2012.

The Shockers and top defender Tekele Cotton are hoping to avoid big performances by Brooks and Sullivan after they let North Carolina Central's Jeremy Ingram score a career-high 37 points last Sunday.

Davidson has struggled defensively all season, allowing 81.8 points per game.