Indiana St.-Wichita St. Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Wichita State had plenty to celebrate last week after locking up its first regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title since 2006.
The 15th-ranked Shockers still have a lot left to accomplish.
Top-seeded Wichita State begins its quest for the tournament crown Friday at the Scottrade Center seeking revenge against Indiana State, which knocked the Shockers out of last season's conference tourney.
Wichita State (26-4,16-2) clinched the regular-season conference title with a 68-55 win at Illinois State on Feb. 22 before concluding the regular season with Saturday's 81-58 victory over Drake.
"We're still grinding, but at the same time we're not done with things," senior David Kyles said. "We're still hungry."
The Shockers carry plenty of momentum into the conference tournament thanks to an eight-game winning streak, during which they've outscored opponents by an average of 15.7 points.
"We're going there to win the tournament," said Gregg Marshall, named MVC coach of the year Thursday. "Our guys, without being over the top, have been solid in their resolve and approach and haven't gotten too high or too low. This is just the next challenge and obstacle in our way. We're looking forward to the opportunity to go to St. Louis and be the first Shocker team to come out of there with a victory."
Wichita State has had its way the Sycamores (18-13, 9-10) of late but likely knows better than to take them lightly.
The Shockers have won eight of nine in the series - including both matchups this season. Their lone loss over that stretch, however, came 61-54 in the semifinals of last season's conference tournament.
Indiana State went on to defeat Missouri State 60-56 in the championship game before falling 77-60 to Syracuse during the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Sycamores continued their recent MVC tournament dominance Thursday, beating Southern Illinois 66-51 in the first round. Jake Odum scored a game-high 17 points as the Sycamores improved to 4-0 in MVC tournament games under second-year coach Greg Lansing.
While Indiana State shot 50.0 percent from the field against the Salukis, a repeat performance seems unlikely versus the Shockers, who are limiting teams to 39.7 percent from the floor to rank first in the conference. They're also pulling down a league-high 37.7 rebounds per game.
"They're so deep, so well coached. They're galvanized from last year not making the NCAA Tournament as they should have," Lansing said.
"You can't take a break against these guys. They're so good in transition. They turn a turnover into a basket at the other end. And that's going to be our challenge."
The Sycamores took a five-point lead into halftime and nearly pulled off a major upset before falling 71-66 at Wichita State on Feb. 4. While Indiana State will again be playing the role of underdog Friday, it isn't lacking for confidence.
"I really like playing Wichita, even though they're probably one of the better teams in the league, but the competition is what drives me," Odum said. "We've lost to them twice this year, so we kind of owe them one. I really don't like to lose to somebody three times."
"We fell short a couple times, and we're planning on finishing this one out."
The Sycamores are sure to have their hands full with Wichita State center Garrett Stutz, who is averaging team highs of 14.1 points and 8.0 rebounds. Stutz posted 24 and 15, respectively, during last month's win over Indiana State.
Updated March 1, 2012