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Is this the week Wichita State loses for the first time?

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College basketball saw 16 of the AP’s top 25 lose last week, but last year’s surprise Final Four entrant, Wichita State, was not among that group of teams.

The No. 4 Shockers, at 23-0 (10-o Missouri Valley Conference), are one of two undefeated teams left in college basketball — along with No. 1 Syracuse — but Wichita State doesn’t face nearly the level of competition that the Orange will face in the ACC while the Shockers play in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Valley lost Creighton to the Big East and isn’t as talented from top-to-bottom as last season, but winning on the road in that league on a consistent basis is one of the toughest things to do in the country. The Shockers should be tested heavily this week when they play two of their top competitors in the Valley this season as they travel to Indiana State on Wednesday and then follow that up with a game at Northern Iowa on Saturday.

“It’s the week that everyone’s been talking about and pointing at, arguably two of the best teams in our league, back to back, on the road,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said to the Associated Press. “I know they’ll be great atmospheres coming up and we’ll have to play really good basketball.”

Wichita State has already taken care of both Indiana State and Northern Iowa at home earlier this season — winning 68-48 against the Sycamores and 67-53 over the Panthers — but after falling behind by 15 points against Evansville over the weekend, there is some concern for the Shockers.

Wichita State can’t fall behind like that against Indiana State and Northern Iowa, two teams that will already know what to expect from this season’s Shockers while also being very strong teams at home.

Indiana State (17-5, 8-2) is undefeated at home this season while Northern Iowa (11-11, 5-5) is 8-1 at home despite its .500 record overall and in Valley play. Both environments will be very difficult for the Shockers because they’re a top-5 team coming off of a Final Four appearance and this will easily be the biggest home games of the year for both teams. The home fans will be fired up and both Indiana State and Northern Iowa will be as well.

Wichita State is used to getting everyone’s best shot by now, but Indiana State and Northern Iowa will be even tougher than the other road tests the Shockers have faced.

If Wichita State can get through this week unscathed, they wouldn’t face another tough test like this until Arch Madness in early March, but that’s much easier said than done.

No. 4 Maryland refocuses, slows down No. 18 Purdue

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon watches from the sideline during a break in play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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No. 18 Purdue and No. 4 Maryland exchanged leads for most of the first 33 minutes before the Boilermakers scored five straight points on layups by Rapheal Davis (who was fouled on his make) and Caleb Swanigan. Purdue was getting the touches it wanted around the basket, and Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins weren’t doing a whole lot to keep it from happening either.

Turgeon called a timeout to get his team back in sync defensively, and as a result Maryland went on a 9-0 run that ultimately led to their winning by the final score of 72-61.

Maryland’s big men, Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone, did a much better job down the stretch of keeping Purdue from getting the ball inside to senior center A.J. Hammons. Hammons finished the game with 18 points and ten rebounds, but only two of those points came after Maryland’s 9-0 second half run. But keeping the ball from getting inside is just as much about the players defending the passers as it is keeping the big(s) from getting to his preferred spot.

Defensively Maryland took away the passing angles and essentially made Purdue’s guards make plays, something they’ve struggled with at times this season. That led to far too many perimeter shots for Purdue, which shot 3-for-23 on the day from beyond the arc. Add in the fact that they attempted just five free throws as a team, making two, and areas in which the Boilermakers can benefit went neglected in College Park.

By comparison Maryland was able to make a habit of going to the foul line, shooting 24-for-27 from the charity stripe with Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble combining to go 17-for-19 on the day. The foul line helped Trimble make up for an off day from the field, as he shot 2-for-12, but the sophomore’s ability to work off of ball screens ultimately opened things up for Maryland even with his shots not falling.

Add in the fact that Sulaimon (21 points, ten rebounds) and Carter (19 points, seven rebounds) were able to pick up the slack, with Diamond Stone adding 12 points and six rebounds, and it’s easy to see why Maryland was able to turn things around down the stretch.

Maryland’s been a good defensive team this season, but they got away from that for a significant portion of Saturday’s game. A key timeout to get the team refocused paid off, the the Terrapins defending at a level that made it incredibly difficult for Purdue to get anything going. And as a result, Maryland remains within a game of leaders Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten title race.

Darryl Reynolds shines, Kris Dunn struggles as No. 3 Villanova beat No. 11 Providence

Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dunks the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 83-58. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Replacing the injured Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game as the result of a concussion, Darryl Reynolds finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 boards as No. 3 Villanova went into Providence and knocked off the No. 11 Friars, 72-60.

Josh Hart chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards (seven of which were offensive), Kris Jenkins notched a double-double as well and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 in Big East play, keeping them all alone in first place in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win, which wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, is that Villanova did it while shooting just 5-for-22 from three. The Wildcats have been reliant on the three during this recent run atop the conference, and on Saturday, they won by controlling the the glass and the paint.

Reynolds’ performance was something else. This is a guy who entered the game averaging just 2.3 points and a reputation for being little more than the reason that Ochefu played so many minutes, but it got to the point on Saturday that he was being double-teamed in the post to get the ball out of his hands. That’s pretty remarkable.

As if the fact that Villanova, playing without their best rebounder, grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and totally controlled the defensive glass.

 

Much of that is likely due to the fact that Ben Bentil, the 6-foot-8 forward for the Friars that is the Big East’s leading scorer, was dealing with an ankle injury he suffered at DePaul earlier this week. He finished 20 points, but much of that came in the form of jumpers and shots at the rim while his two rebounds was much more indicative of the impact that he was able to make with his ankle.

But what was really concerning for Providence was that Kris Dunn was downright awful. He shot 4-for-15 from the floor, committed six turnovers and simply made the wrong decision too many times. Yes, he was likely pressing due to the fact that Bentil was injured and Villanova’s defense was keying on him, but it’s not exactly comforting to know that this is what his floor is.

He’s Kris Dunn.

He’s going to be keyed on by defenses every single time he steps on a basketball court.

He has to be better than he was today.