Wichita St.-Utah Preview
Riding high following four consecutive routs, Utah isn't likely to have it easy at home in its return to the Top 25.
The 25th-ranked Runnin' Utes look to make a statement in matchup between two of the nation's top defensive clubs Wednesday night as they try to end No. 8 Wichita State's 35-game regular-season winning streak.
Utah (5-1) opened the season in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2000-01 season before falling out after a Nov. 18 loss at then-No. 16 San Diego State.
The Utes climbed back in after reaching a season-high point total while forcing a season-best 17 turnovers in Saturday's 93-62 victory over Alabama State to wrap up their annual Thanksgiving tournament. They've beaten Cal-Riverside, Texas-Pan American, North Dakota and the Hornets in their last four at home by an average of 37.7 points.
''We have learned little lessons along the way this season and it's imperative that we're focused and ready to give (opponents) our best shot," coach Larry Krystkowiak said
The Utes rank in the top 25 nationally in points allowed at 55.0 per game and defensive field-goal percentage at 35.1, while also sitting among NCAA leaders in field-goal percentage (53.3), 3-point percentage (44.6) and points per game (82.5).
Those numbers could be put to the test as Utah seeks its 26th win in 28 home games in the first meeting between ranked teams at the Huntsman Center since Feb. 27, 1999.
The Shockers (4-0) have surrendered 55.5 points per game while extending the nation's longest regular-season winning streak. They're also averaging 80.5 points after Saturday's 75-55 home win over Tulsa.
Fred VanVleet finished with season highs of 21 points and nine assists, while Ron Baker scored 19 with six 3-pointers. Tekele Cotton had six after sitting out the previous game to rest two injured fingers on his right hand.
''I thought a couple of our veterans played some beautiful basketball for the most part and we're looking forward to our trip to Salt Lake,'' said coach Gregg Marshall, whose club has defeated three 2014 NCAA tournament teams by 15 points or more.
Baker is averaging 19.3 points while hitting 12 of 23 from long range and VanVleet is scoring 16.0 in the past three games. VanVleet went 2 for 5 from 3-point range Saturday after missing eight of his previous nine attempts.
"It's a work in progress, but the rest of my game is doing just fine," the preseason All-American said.
The Shockers, seeking a nation-best 14th straight road win, have made 26 of 59 (44.1 percent) from long range since missing their first 17.
They'll have to keep a close eye on Utah senior Delon Wright, who has totaled 47 points on 15-of-18 shooting in the last two games. Fellow guard Kenneth Ogbe hopes to build on the career-high 19 he scored Saturday.
Jakob Poeltl, a 7-foot freshman, has a combined 35 points and 20 rebounds while making 15 of 16 from the field in his past two contests. Utah ranks in the top 20 with a plus-11.5 rebounding margin, but Wichita State has been ever better at plus-12.3.
The Utes have dropped their last 14 versus top 10 teams dating to a win over No. 1 Alabama on Dec. 30, 2002. They've won six of seven all-time meetings with the Shockers, though this is the first since 1991.