PORTLAND, Ore. — Wichita State’s Toure Murry took the loss as hard as anyone in the locker room.
The Shocker senior, who played in a record 139 games, said it was difficult to see the season end so abruptly.
It ended before Murry could eclipse the WSU career assists record, too. His five assists against VCU moved him into a first-place tie with Warren (Armstrong) Jabali , a 6-foot-2 guard-forward who played from 1965-68. Armstrong played three seasons and in 78 games, 61 fewer than Murry.
Still, it was a record Murry cherished, but one he will have to share.
The 6-foot-4 Murry also fell one minute short of becoming the first WSU player to reach 4,000 minutes for a career. He played 36 minutes Thursday. Murry also concludes his college career with 1,539 points, No. 11 at WSU and six points shy of Greg Carney at No. 10.
Call it confidence — Give VCU’s public relations department credit for confidence. It took out an ad in the Washington Post’s NCAA preview section reading “VCU Back to Bust Your Bracket.”
The Rams backed it up. VCU coach Shaka Smart wanted people to know the athletic department wasn’t boasting.
“That ad had nothing to do with our athletic department,” he said. “I didn’t even know. I think what our school was just trying to do was get people’s attention and make sure that people are taking a look at VCU this time of year.”
It worked out — VCU made two back-breaking three-pointers late against WSU’s zone defense. Both came on the side of the court defended by Carl Hall, who isn’t normally asked to defend shooters on the perimeter.
WSU cut the lead to 54-53 when VCU’s Troy Daniels made a three over Hall’s hand with 2:52 to play. When WSU went up 59-57, VCU’s Brandon Burgess got loose in the corner and sank a three to regain the lead for good.
Smart said the shots were more coincidence than plan.
“It wasn’t so much we were trying to pick on him,” Smart said. “We wanted to get the ball to our better shooters. It wasn’t really a function of what side of the floor their defenders were on, it was just us moving the ball and trying to get an open shot.”
Watch and learn — Davidson gave Wichita State center Garrett Stutz fits with its double teams, often a guard coming from the baseline and behind the big man. Louisville coach Rick Pitino sounded like he watched that game, a 91-74 WSU win in February in which Stutz scored eight points and committed four turnovers. It is an unusual way to defend, and one that can work because big men aren’t used to countering.
Pitino prepared by showing Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva video of Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash. When Davidson clogged up the post, Pitino wanted Siva to run the pick and roll. He knew Davidson would give Siva room to operate in the lane because it could not leave Louisville’s shooters at the three-point arc.
“We said one of the greatest things Steve Nash does off pick and roll, if he probes the lane and he decides not to have anything, he just dribbles it back out and takes a different angle of the screen,” Pitino said. “I think that helped Peyton watching Steve Nash do it.”
Siva scored 17 points, making 7 of 12 shots, and handed out six assists in Louisville’s 69-62 win at the Rose Garden.
Kyles’ boost — WSU switched to full-court pressure for much of the second half, and it was a chance for David Kyles to provide the energy that he and the team had been lacking.
Kyles had scored in single digits in four of his previous five games. He didn’t crack 10 points Thursday, either, but his stretch of scoring in the second half showcased his broad array of talents.
The Shockers trailed 44-31 before Kyles got a breakaway dunk after a steal by Toure Murry. VCU’s lead was still 11, but WSU had life.
Less than a minute later, Kyles got his own steal and converted a layup. On WSU’s next possession, Kyles made a three-pointer from the right wing to cut VCU’s lead to 46-40. Kyles didn’t score again, but his burst of offense led the Shockers’ rally and gave them momentum.
"It’s just defense," Kyles said. "Just realizing that this could be my last game and I didn’t want to be out there just shooting the ball. Defense, I’m glad it helped me tonight."
Take notice — VCU center D.J. Haley was an easy player to avoid watching. He took one shot and was rarely a part of the Rams’ offense.
He made WSU players avoidable, too. He contributed to getting counterpart Stutz in foul trouble, limiting Stutz to four points in 17 minutes. Haley had seven rebounds and a steal.
"That’s what he does," Smart said. "His performance is always exponentially better than his stats."
Worth noting — Former Hutchinson Community College coach Steve McClain is an assistant at Indiana. McClain won the NJCAA title in 1994. He joined Tom Crean’s staff in 2010 after spending three seasons as an assistant at Colorado. Indiana media relations director J.D. Campbell played baseball at Newman University.