February 16, 2015

Fred VanVleet is the catalyst for Wichita State, so it's understandable that coach Gregg Marshall will keep his point guard out on the floor as he long as he feels comfortable enough to play through an injury.

Marshall hopes that doesn't come with future repercussions, though.

VanVleet may still be dealing with an ankle problem when the 13th-ranked Shockers visit Southern Illinois on Tuesday night.

Wichita State (23-3, 13-1 Missouri Valley) shot just 36.7 percent in Saturday's 68-62 win at Illinois State as Ron Baker scored 19 points. VanVleet finished 3 of 11 from the field but went 9 for 13 from the free-throw line and added six rebounds while finishing with 15 points.

The most impressive aspect is that VanVleet played 36 minutes despite rolling his right ankle in the first half. He committed two turnovers - he didn't have any in his previous two games - but his 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks fourth in the nation.

"He's one of the toughest players I've ever coached," Marshall said. "Most guys wouldn't have come back from that. But Freddy was back out there in less than a minute and ended up playing ... on a bad wheel. I just hope it's not too swollen to play on next week.''

VanVleet had a season-low two points in a 67-55 win over Southern Illinois on Jan. 14, but he played only 21 minutes as the Shockers jumped out to a big lead in the first half.

Darius Carter scored a career-high 25 in that contest for Wichita State, which has won three straight and nine of the last 11 meetings with the Salukis (10-17, 3-11).

SIU's struggles continued Saturday with a 72-64 loss to Evansville, its sixth defeat in seven games. Its 17 turnovers were the most it has committed in conference play this season.

The Salukis rank ninth in the 10-team MVC in field-goal percentage defense at 43.8 after allowing the Aces to hit 56.3 percent from the floor - the highest mark for a Southern Illinois opponent in more than two years.

"I think it's a maturity issue right now," guard Anthony Beane told the team's official website. "Guys haven't experienced how to close out a close game. When we learn how to close games, that's when we're going to be a good team."

Beane is third in the conference in scoring at 16.1 points per game. He averaged 20.3 in his previous three before hitting 4 of 11 from the field and scoring 11 against Evansville.

"We still have a lot to play for," Beane said. "Anything can happen. Other teams can start losing, we can start winning. You never know what could happen. I feel like there's always something to play for. If we start winning, it will help build momentum heading into the tournament and maybe we can be one of the hottest teams going into the tournament."

Freshman Deion Lavender scored 15 points in the first meeting with the Shockers. He averages just 5.9 on the season, but he's scoring 14.0 per game over the last four.

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