Bradley-Wichita St. Preview

The Associated Press

Wichita State suffering its first loss of the season to Bradley seems about as improbable as its latest victory.

The fifth-ranked Shockers host the struggling Braves on Tuesday night, three days after a stunning second-half rally helped earn them their first top-5 ranking in more than 32 years.

Wichita State (17-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley) overcame its worst shooting night of the season and a 19-point deficit to earn a 72-69 overtime win at Missouri State on Saturday, extending the longest winning streak in school history.

"We've had some games where we made some plays down the stretch to win by five or whatever ... but as far as a game really being in doubt, this is by far the toughest game we've had," coach Gregg Marshall said.

Cleanthony Early led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Fred VanVleet added 16 and Ron Baker scored 15. Wichita State shot 35.3 percent from the field, but knocked down a season-high 31 of its 40 free-throw attempts.

VanVleet (12.2 points per game) scored 12 of the Shockers' last 13 points while Baker (13.1) had 12 in the second half. Those two earned their coach's respect by coming through with the game on the line.

"Those sophomore guards in particular have a very, very high competitive spirit," said Marshall, whose program has its highest ranking since Wichita State was No. 2 on Dec. 28, 1981.

The Shockers have shot just 38.2 percent in their last three games - Early is shooting 35.0 percent in that stretch - but they've managed to keep winning by holding opponents to a 35.9 percent mark at the other end.

"In those types of situations, you've just got to keep grinding out the game," Baker said. "Getting some stops is a big thing, but then you've got to go score on the offensive end. If you can do those two things, you're going to come back."

Needing a comeback against Bradley seems unlikely. The Shockers have beaten the Braves seven straight times by an average of 23.7 points. The Shockers have won the last three home contests in the series by a total of 91 points.

Bradley (6-11, 1-3) has lost nine of 10 and is coming off an equally disappointing offensive night. The Braves shot 34.9 percent Saturday in a 62-59 loss at Indiana State.

"We did plenty on defense to win the game," coach Geno Ford said. "Our issues tend to always fall at the other end of the floor."

They've lost their last two games by a combined six points, and Ford thinks Indiana State provided as relevant of a tuneup for the Shockers as the Missouri Valley has to offer.

"We played about as well as we were going to play against a NCAA tournament team," Ford said. "I think they're really, really good. I've watched a ton of tape of them and I've watched a ton of tape of Wichita in the last seven days because this is our stretch of both games. And if there's one team in the league - and I think Wichita is outstanding, great coaching, great roster of players - I think Indiana State's right there with them."

Walt Lemon Jr. scored a game-high 22 points against Indiana State and is averaging 26.0 in his last three.

The Braves are 0-5 on the road, losing by an average of 16.2 points. The Shockers have outscored opponents by 16.8 points in 10 home wins.

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