Wichita State faces “a whole new animal” on Sunday

No. 19 takes on No. 5 Sunday at 3 p.m.


Selena Favela

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall calls a play during the game against UConn Saturday evening at Koch Arena.

The American’s most anticipated matchup, No. 19 Wichita State and No. 5 Cincinnati, will meet for the first time this season on Sunday.

“I hope that we can make it a tremendous college basketball game,” Head Coach Gregg Marshall said.

The rivalry between the two teams came to life when Cincinnati edged Wichita State by one single point in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.

The two teams are neck and neck when it comes to leading The American in various categories. Either The Shockers or The Bearcats lead the league in 19 of the 21 major statistical categories.

Cincinnati is currently in first place in the race for the regular-season title. Prior to Thursday evening, The Bearcats were on a 16-game winning streak, winning all 12 of their conference games.

The streak was ended by Houston in a 67-62 win by The Cougars, handing The Bearcats their first loss since Dec. 9.

“We have to go into their den with them being a little dinged up and mad after a loss to Houston,” Marshall said. “The first one is on the road, and that will be the toughest one for sure.”

The Shockers still have a chance at a share of the conference title. Wichita State trails by two games in The American. If Wichita State can win their last five games, two of which are against Cincinnati, they will get a share of the title.

Sophomore guard Landry Shamet said The Shockers will have to build on their momentum from their recent comeback win over Temple.  In order to carry that momentum, he said they will have to be “laser focused” in preparation for the game.

“I think the biggest thing is building on the momentum…We just have to get better and not settle for a good win at home against Temple, but understand we are playing a top-5 team in the country on the road for the first time,” Shamet said.

“That’s a whole new animal we just haven’t seen yet, so we need to be laser focused the next few days in practice.”

Cincinnati and Wichita State are both home to a final-30 contender for the Naismith Trophy, which was announced earlier in the week. Shamet and The Bearcats’ Gary Clark both made the list.

Gary averages the second-most points for The Bearcats with 12.8 and averages 8.7 rebounds per game. Gary is one of the two best offensive rebounders in the league, right next to senior forward Rashard Kelly.

Cincinnati’s leading scorer, Jacob Evans, averages 13.6 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The Bearcats average 75.9 points per game with a +19.6 scoring margin. Cincinnati has been able to hold their opponents to an average of 56.3 points per game.

Wichita State leads The American in threes per game, averaging 9.5, and comes in at second in three-point percentage with a .388.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, sits on top of the leaderboard in three-point defense. The allow only 6.2 threes per game and hold their opponents to .303 shooting percentage from deep.

There are just 10 schools in the nation that have been ranked in every AP Poll this season. Both Cincinnati and Wichita State are among those 10 teams.

The Shockers have the nation’s eighth-longest AP Poll streak with 19 since February of 2017.

Wichita State’s last regular season top-5 win was over No. 2 Louisville on Feb. 25, 1967.

Although Sunday’s game is home game for The Bearcats, Cincinnati plays their 2017-18 home games at Northern Kentucky University while their original home arena goes through renovations.

Tipoff is at 3 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.