November 29, 2015

Wichita State's health has followed its early-season record downhill. Following some good news on Anton Grady, the 20th-ranked Shockers can return their focus to winning.

Banged-up Wichita State looks to get its season on track and avoid taking last place in the eight-team AdvoCare Invitational with Sunday's seventh-place game against Iowa.

The Shockers (2-3) dropped their first two games by a combined seven points and have likely ended their 42-week stay in the Top 25 dating to Oct. 31, 2013 - the fourth-longest active streak in the national rankings behind Duke, Kansas and Arizona.

They have played this entire tournament in Orlando without star guard Fred VanVleet, who has missed three straight games with ankle and hamstring issues, and they watched another key contributor suffer a scary injury Friday.

The Shockers' 64-60 loss to Alabama was largely overshadowed by a collision that left Grady motionless on the court late in the second half. The senior forward was taken off on a stretcher and transported to a hospital.

Good news came Saturday, however, when Wichita State said tests showed no signs of spinal cord trauma, and doctors anticipate a return of Grady's motor function and strength. They believe he sustained a spinal cord concussion, and he'll undergo physical therapy over the next few days before a decision is made on his release from the hospital.

With their teammate expected to recover, the Shockers can shift the focus back to the court as they try to avoid their worst start since 2-4 in 1998-99. They'll also try to avoid their longest skid since dropping three straight from Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2013.

The loss to Alabama was similar to a 72-69 defeat to USC in the tournament opener and a 77-67 loss at Tulsa on Nov. 17 in that Wichita State could not hold a second-half lead.

The Shockers shot a season-worst 31.1 percent and went 9 of 31 inside the arc.

"Disappointing," coach Gregg Marshall said. "I thought we had a chance again, a lead midway through the second half and didn't finish."

Ron Baker has been the only player producing in VanVleet's absence, but he made just 4 of 12 shots for 15 points. Baker is averaging 20.2 points and shooting 41.9 percent.

Grady is Wichita State's second leading scorer with 9.0 points per game, leaving the Shockers with a struggling young group. That includes freshman Ty Taylor II, who is shooting 26.8 percent and 22.2 from 3-point range.

"We've got too many guys who can't make a play or make a basket on the floor right now," Marshall told the team's official website.

Iowa (3-2) also suffered two tight losses to open the tournament, falling 82-77 to Dayton and 68-62 to No. 17 Notre Dame.

The Hawkeyes trailed the Fighting Irish 46-31 early in the second half Friday, but a 16-0 run helped them jump ahead 47-46 with 10:06 to go. Notre Dame regained the lead shortly after, though, and never trailed again.

"When you're really good, you're close to struggling," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "When you're struggling, you're close to being really good. We played two really good teams right to the wire."

Wichita State has won its only three matchups with Iowa, the most recent a 75-63 victory on Nov. 21, 2012. Baker was a freshman starter at the time and was held to two points while missing all seven of his shots.

The Hawkeyes have three wins in their last eight games against ranked opponents after a 71-55 victory over No. 17 Maryland on Feb. 8.

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