Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams at opposite ends of the success spectrum get together on Saturday afternoon, as the winless Tennessee State Tigers pay a visit to the undefeated and 16th-ranked Wichita State Shockers.
Tennessee State is hoping to avoid its first 0-4 start since 2010-11, a dubious distinction it avoided last season after losing the first three games before taking down South Alabama, 68-57. Returning to the present, the Tigers took part in the Rainbow Classic out in Hawaii within the last week or so and lost to the host team in the opener, followed by setbacks against New Mexico State and Western Michigan. Each loss coming by double digits. TSU will play its home opener on Monday night versus Lipscomb.
Wichita State is 3-0 on the young season, the team handling Emporia State (93-50), Western Kentucky (66-49) and William & Mary (79-62) with relative ease. The Shockers are hoping for even greater success this season, after reaching the Final Four last spring, and they will likely face their first real test of the campaign the week of Thanksgiving when they take part in the Championship Round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City against DePaul and either Texas or BYU. They will also face a pair of SEC clubs in Tennessee and Alabama in mid-December.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between TSU and WSU in men's basketball.
The Tigers have had all kinds of trouble scoring points this season, netting 54 per game while shooting a feeble 35.4 percent from the field, which includes a miserable 15.6 percent showing from 3-point range. That's right, 15.6 percent, as they have made good on only 7-of-45 long-range launches. Conversely, foes are putting up 72.7 ppg in hitting their field goals 43.4 percent of the time, although they too have struggled from downtown (.250). Patrick Miller has clearly been the team's most productive player, as he is averaging 20.7 points and 3.3 assists per contest. No one else on the roster is netting more than 9.0 ppg (M.J. Rhett).
Miller hit for 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists in the recent loss to Western Michigan. He scored 30 points in the season-opening loss to Hawaii. Rhett (10 points, nine rebounds) came close to logging a double-double against the Broncos, and the Tigers shot just 31.7 percent from the floor, missing 20 of their 23 3-point attempts along the way.
Fred VanVleet poured in 18 points and handed out eight assists to help push Wichita State past William & Mary on Thursday night. Cleanthony Early added 14 points and nine rebounds, Ron Baker 13 points and Kadeem Coleby had 10 for the Shockers, who actually trailed by a point at the half (39-38), but shot 48.2 percent from the field and used advantages in both rebounding (38-30) and points from the foul line (18-11) to prevail.
Early and VanFleet rank one-two on the team's scoring list, averaging 15.3 and 15.0 ppg, respectively, helping the team as a whole put up 79.3 ppg on the strength of its 49.1 percent shooting effort. Baker adds 11.7 ppg for a WSU squad that allows just 53.7 ppg -- its foes hitting a mere 36.8 percent of their total shots, which includes 25.0 percent effort from beyond the arc. The Shockers also own favorable margins in both rebounding (+6.7) and turnovers (+9.0).