Wednesday’s Wichita State shootaround looked ominous, with the bench full of sick and injured big men. Coach Gregg Marshall pondered four-guard lineups and hoped for doctors and trainers to work their magic.
By tip-off, the Shockers looked healthy and they played that way in an 86-60 win over Tulsa at Koch Arena. WSU won its fifth straight over its oldest rival with season’s best shooting performances of 52.2 percent and 36.8 percent from three-point range.
WSU’s leading scorers watched shootaround, not looking particularly energetic.
Forward Carl Hall fought a vomit-inducing virus. Forward Cleathony Early strained a ligament in his left ankle in Tuesday’s practice and Marshall considered him a scratch until an hour before the game. Hall scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Early added 13 points. Center Chadrack Lufile felt sick on Tuesday and played 14 solid minutes Wednesday. Center Ehimen Orukpe is out with a sprained right ankle. He watched from the bench wearing a walking boot.
“I can play sick,” Hall said. “I played football in cold weather. It’s nothing to play in the gym.”
With so few feeling great, everybody pitched in for the Shockers (7-0). Nine players played 14 or more minutes, nobody more than 26. Six players scored eight or more points, with the reserves outscoring Tulsa’s bench 36-13. Freshman guard Fred VanVleet scored nine points, adding five assists and four steals in his best performance in college. Guard Tekele Cotton made hustle plays in the first half, a two-handed dunk off an inbound play in the second, and scored eight points for the second straight game.
“I didn’t know who we would have,” Marshall said. “We were going to play a very small lineup. So the doctors and the trainers … they’re the MVP.”
Tulsa (4-3) had its own problems. New coach Danny Manning missed injured starter Rashad Smith and started three freshmen. The Golden Hurricane gave up a 12-4 run to end the first half and a 13-2 run midway through the second. WSU’s experience and size gave it an edge on the backboard and defensively.
Freshman James Woodard led Tulsa with 14 points. The Hurricane committed 16 turnovers, leading to 24 WSU points.
“We weren’t able to match their energy,” Manning said. “We competed a little bit, but across the board we have to do a better job of competing, especially on the glass. They got too many second-chance opportunities.”
WSU put the game away with a second-half burst that expanded its lead to 72-50. Hall scored five points during that run and brought fans to their feet with a chasedown block to deny Tulsa’s Kauri Black a layup.
“We picked up the pressure on the ball,” VanVleet said. “I noticed that they were kind of weak with the ball on the perimeter, so I wanted to get up in them a little bit. We forced a couple steals and got some stops.”
Cotton’s hustle sparked the Shockers early in the game. He grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored three points.
The Shockers broke free of Tulsa’s slow pace late in the first half. Malcolm Armstead broke a half-court press to make an open three-pointer for a 21-15 lead. Wessel followed with another three. Hall’s three-point play with 3:22 remaining started a 7-0 run to give WSU a 33-23 lead. Early scored six of WSU’s final nine points in the half.
VanVleet’s three in the final seconds put WSU up 38-27 at halftime. WSU surprised Tulsa with a press to start the second half. A turnover led to Wessel’s three, part of a 9-2 run to open the half.