Even with a roster overhaul, Wichita State’s offensive trademarks don’t change. The Shockers don’t turn the basketball over often. They don’t take many bad shots.
Even for an exhibition game, events that often turn sloppy, WSU’s 100-point performance on Monday against Pittsburg State appears to be a promising sign. The Shockers, despite rotating in 12 players, committed only 14 turnovers and rarely looked selfish or out of sync.
Coach Gregg Marshall liked much of what he saw, although he credits WSU’s defense with creating steals and easy shots to help the scoring. WSU made 49.2 percent and scored 17 first-half points off turnovers in the 100-56 win. He won’t go as far as to say the offense is ahead of expectations.
“That was good, but I think a lot of it was we caused them some problems with our pressure,” he said. “We probably shot a better percentage than we normally would. We took pretty good shots all game long.”
The Shockers take whatever confidence they earned from that performance into Saturday’s season opener against North Carolina Central. After losing their top five scorers from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, the offense is under reconstruction. WSU plays four games in the next eight days, including Tuesday’s trip to Virginia Commonwealth, so they will know much more about their scoring abilities soon.
“Our chemistry is coming along,” guard Ron Baker said. “I wouldn’t expect us to score 100 points every night.”
Five Shockers will be playing in their first NCAA Division I game and one his first in a WSU uniform.
“We had good moments, and we had bad moments, as well,” guard Malcolm Armstead said. “That was a good tuneup game, something we needed as a team to get used to playing in front of that many fans.”
The Shockers also displayed the balanced scoring that characterizes Marshall’s teams. Senior forward Carl Hall made all seven of his shots and finished with 23 points. Baker added 17 and three others scored eight or more.
Hall showed the ability to take on a larger scoring role after averaging 8.4 points last season. Center Ehimen Orukpe made a jump hook and scored seven points. Armstead handed out five assists in the first half and took charge late in the shot clock to get the offense organized.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Armstead said. “Turnovers. Boxing out. Getting to the right spots on the press break. Communicating. You get complacent when you get comfortable and relaxed, and it’s not that type of program.”
Saturday’s game will step up the challenge for the Shockers. North Carolina Central went 17-15 last season and return three starters. Ray Willis, a transfer from Oklahoma, averaged 14.6 points last season and is a preseason All-MEAC selection. Forward Jay Copeland is a transfer from Ball State and Ebuka Anyaorah started his career at Georgia. Forward Stanton Kidd scored 14 points for South Plains (Texas) in last season’s NJCAA championship game victory over Northwest Florida State.
“Their talent level is going to be good,” Marshall said. “This is going to be a team that can do some damage in their league.”