For the past week, Wichita State players said the right things about playing in the National Invitation Tournament. On Wednesday night, they did all the right things.
The Shockers hammered Nebraska 76-49 at Koch Arena, leading by 20 or more points the entire second half. WSU made its first two three-pointers to start a red-hot shooting night that totaled 11 threes and buried the Huskers.
When were shooting like that, it spreads, WSU guard Graham Hatch said.
Fourth-seeded WSU (25-8) will play at Virginia Tech (22-11) at 10 a.m. Sunday in the NITs second round. The Hokies, top-seeded in their part of the bracket, defeated Bethune-Cookman 79-54 on Wednesday.
After Wednesday, there isnt any doubt the Shockers want to keep playing, even after a disappointing season stretch that ruined NCAA Tournament dreams. WSU beat down the Huskers from the tip, playing with more aggressiveness and purpose. It didnt take the Shockers long to figure out the NIT is a lot of fun when the ball goes in the basket.
Thats about as well as weve played in a while, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. The guys really did a great job passing the ball. We got some very good looks.
Nebraska (19-13) never recovered from WSU jetting to a 10-0 lead. The Huskers trailed the entire game and didnt muster any kind of rally after falling behind by 15 points with 10 minutes to play in the first half. Perhaps stunned by WSUs burst, the Huskers didnt show much composure or fight early in the game.
WSUs Gabe Blair blocked two shots, discouraging Nebraskas big men, and the Huskers clanked three after three.
You get out-scored 27 points at the three-point line, youre not going to win many ballgames, Huskers coach Doc Sadler said. Wichita State, obviously, was a very, very, very good basketball team tonight. We didnt give them any pressure at all from the get-go.
Those first few minutes erased any doubt about WSUs motivation and offensive execution. Senior J.T. Durley passed out of a double-team to Toure Murry, who found Joe Ragland for a three-pointer. Durley then passed to Hatch, freed by a Blair screen, for another three.
After a Nebraska turnover, Murry made a short jumper for an 8-0 lead. After an offensive rebound by Ragland, Hatch was fouled and made two free throws for a 10-0 lead with 16:05 remaining in the half.
Their team played like it was one-and-done deal, Sadler said. My team didnt.
The Shockers also played like a team freed from the shackles of Missouri Valley Conference defense. Durley shredded Nebraskas double-teams, finding open teammates for shots or to start a chain of passes that led to scores. WSU made 11 of 26 threes, tying its season high. It made 24 of 52 shots (46.2 percent), its best since making 57.7 percent at Northern Iowa on Feb. 12.
Weve been working on our offense a lot, Durley said. In the last few games, our offense hasnt been great, not a lot of movement.
The Huskers quit doubling late in the game, too late to make a difference.
Their inside game has been their strength, Sadler said. We didnt just show up here without having a clue what they were going to do. Everyone said that you need to make sure their inside people are the people that you defend.
The Huskers cut the lead to 10-7. Then WSUs Demetric Williams made a three to start a 14-2 run. Nebraska didnt get closer than 12 the rest of the game.
It just seemed like every time we made a shot or made a play, they made one, Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel said. They had an answer for everything we did.