CANCUN, Mexico — The scouting report should soon get out on Wichita State. Don’t bother pressing the Shockers. They like shooting layups.
DePaul tried to press WSU most of the game on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Riviera Division in the Cancun Challenge. The Blue Demons didn’t create turnovers. They succeeded in speeding up the tempo, which WSU point guard Malcolm Armstead handled with composure. The Shockers defeated DePaul 75-62 at the Moon Palace Resort and will play for the tournament championship on Wednesday.
“Eleven turnovers against that kind of pressure is pretty good,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s hard to press (Armstead). We’ve got some guys who can beat a press all by himself, and he’s maybe the best at it.”
WSU (5-0) plays in the championship game against Iowa. DePaul (2-2) plays Western Kentucky in Wednesday’s third-place game.
If Iowa plans to press, it might reconsider.
“Our point guards set us up in the right position to get easy buckets,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “We work on it every day and our knowledge is very good on the press. We know what we can do and what we can’t do.”
The Shockers couldn’t quite put DePaul away despite leading from start to finish. They shot poorly in the first half, missing a few layups, before improving to 51.4 percent in the second half. Free throws were also a problem — 15 of 26. The Shockers departed the ballroom for the late-night buffets at the all-inclusive resort thinking the margin stayed closer than necessary.
DePaul couldn’t mount a sustained rally because it couldn’t score. Without the press forcing turnovers, the Blue Demons struggled to score. WSU’s defense forced them to shoot from the perimeter, surrendering few layups or dunks. DePaul shot 30.6 percent for the game and missed 17 of 22 three-pointers.
“We’ve got tough kids,” Marshall said. “It’s not always pretty, but they’re battling and they’re defending.”
Williams led WSU with a career-high 18 points before fouling out in the final minutes. Armstead added 17 points. Brandon Young led DePaul with 19 points. Moses Morgan came off the bench to score 15. Cleveland Melvin, averaging 20, scored 11.
“We played better in the second half, although we didn’t convert what I thought were easy opportunities,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “It really wasn’t that frustrating a night because we kept battling. We were right there at the end.”
DePaul cut WSU’s lead to four points early in the second half and to five with 2:16 to play on Brandon Young’s three-pointer. Williams responded quickly with a three, taking a pass from Ron Baker after Armstead sliced through the press. That basket put WSU up 65-57 with 1:57 to play.
Foul problems hampered both teams. Melvin, DePaul’s top scorer, had three first-half fouls and never got in the flow of the offense. The Blue Demons entered the double bonus midway through the second half, but couldn’t take advantage.
Defense controlled the early moments of the game. DePaul didn’t score until 14:58 remained in the half. That cost them only a three-point deficit. The teams piled up eight fouls and four turnovers before either scored, a Shocker free throw with 16:07 to play.