Wichita State's Fred VanVleet (23) drives past Drake's Reed Timmer (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)
Scott Morgan
December 31, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Wichita State might still be the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference. But its conference opener showed the league probably won't be nearly as easy to win as it was for the Shockers last season.

Ron Baker scored 23 points, including 13 straight down the stretch, and 16th-ranked Wichita State beat Drake 66-58 on Wednesday.

Tekele Cotton had 17 points for the Shockers (11-2, 1-0 MVC), who answered a Christmas Day loss to George Washington with their 22nd straight Missouri Valley Conference victory.

Wichita State struggled for much of the night against the team with the worst record in the Valley. The Shockers didn't take their first double-digit lead, 56-46, until there was 5:49 left.

Baker's layup with 1:02 remaining gave Wichita State a 64-57 lead, and Drake turned it over on the next possession.

''Just glad to get that one over with,'' Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. ''We were lucky to get out of here with a win.''

Jacob Enevold had 12 points with a career-high 15 rebounds for Drake (3-10). The Bulldogs shot just 33 percent from the field and still pushed the Shockers until the final minute.

Wichita State didn't have the most encouraging trip to Hawaii last week - and didn't look much better in its return to the mainland.

After blowing out Loyola Marymount in Honolulu, the Shockers needed overtime to beat the hometown Rainbow Warriors 80-79. Wichita State then shot just 34.4 percent in falling to George Washington.

Drake kept it close in the first half, in part by dominating the boards, and trailed just 29-25 at halftime. The Bulldogs even tied it 34-all on a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer by Gary Ricks with 14:04 to go.

Baker nailed back-to-back 3s to give Wichita State a 59-49 lead with 5:17 left.

But the rebuilding Bulldogs wouldn't go away, and Enevold's dunk brought Drake to 59-55. The Bulldogs, however, had no answer for Baker in the final 7 minutes. He scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half.

Wichita State teammate Fred VanVleet was held to seven points and three assists as he struggled with foul trouble.

''This is not last year's team. Those guys are professionals. They're not walking through that door,'' Marshall said. ''We're 11-2 and ... we're trying to continue to find ways to win games.''



Wichita State: The last time the Shockers lost to a current member of the Valley was on Feb. 27, 2013, when Evansville beat them 59-56. Wichita State fell to Creighton in the league title game a few weeks later, but it hasn't lost a conference game since.

Drake: Though the Bulldogs lost, they looked much better in their second game against a ranked opponent in 11 days. Drake was throttled by Iowa State 83-54 on Dec. 20. ... Drake outrebounded Wichita State 38-29 and outscored the Shockers in the paint 20-18.


Drake's Reed Timmer missed a 3 that would have made it 62-60 with 1:39 left. Baker grabbed the rebound and hit a layup, completing a five-point swing that put the Bulldogs away for good.


The plane carrying Wichita State to Des Moines was delayed because it had to return to the airport when its landing gear malfunctioned after takeoff. The plane trouble wasn't all that bothered the Shockers, either. Marshall said he and a few of his players were under the weather, and both he and Cotton struggled through coughing spells during the postgame press conference. ''That's no excuse. We're going to play unless we're bed-ridden. So I'm going to coach unless something like that happens as well,'' Marshall said.


Wichita State hosts Illinois State on Sunday.

Drake plays at Missouri State on Saturday.


Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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