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First-place Wichita State begins tough homestretch

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 4:59 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, at 7:13 a.m.

Drake at

Wichita State

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Koch Arena

Records: DU 11-13, 5-8 MVC; WSU 20-5, 9-4

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: Cox 22

Drake at Wichita State

PDrakeHtYrPtsReb
F Jordan Clarke6-8Sr.8.98.3
FBen Simons6-9Sr.14.93.7
CSeth VanDeest6-11Jr.9.34.5
GRichard Carter5-11Jr.9.3x-3.6
G Chris Hines6-1Sr.9.12.2

Drake (11-13, 5-8): The Bulldogs are losers of two straight after winning three of four. Evansville defeated them 84-78 in overtime Sunday, enjoying an 11-point edge at the foul line. Drake made 10 of 21 threes and is 30 of 65 (46.2 percent) behind the arc its past three games. Simons is averaging 20.3 points in those games, shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 66.7 percent (12 of 18) from three-point range. WSU held Simons to eight points in January.… Freshmen led Drake in scoring in the first meeting. F Joey King scored 15 and G Micah Mason added 14.

PWichita St.HtYrPtsReb
F

Carl Hall6-8Sr.12.47.5
CEhimen Orukpe7-0Sr.3.34.9
GDemetric Williams6-3Sr.8.8x-2.5
GTekele Cotton6-3So.6.03.8
GMalcolm Armstead6-0Sr.9.0x-4.0

x-assists

Wichita State (20-5, 9-4): WSU made a season-high 12 of 25 threes in the first meeting. F Nick Wiggins came off the bench to lead WSU with 18 points, making 4 of 5 threes.… WSU scored 29 points off 19 Drake turnovers.… Cotton is 6 of 11 from three-point range in his past four games after going 3 of 23 previously. “He’s gotten in the gym, extra,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He’s taken thousands of shots and it’s paid off for him.”… The Shockers won four in a row over Drake at Koch Arena, all by 16 or more points.

RPIs as of Tuesday: DU 156, WSU 41

Relatively speaking, Wichita State senior Demetric Williams went through hard times earlier in his career. He had to settle for the NIT as a freshman and sophomore. Twice, his teams lost two games in a row.

He won’t get sympathy from most college basketball players, but Williams does know what it takes to endure disappointment. He played with teammates — J.T. Durley, Toure Murry, Garrett Stutz and others — who gained even more experience absorbing blows and rebounding in previous seasons.

Other than Williams, most of the current Shocker roster lived a dream life. The young players won big. The newcomers heard all about a program that wins 20 games and championships, without living through the hard work and daily grind.

Now they’ve gone through it together.

WSU (20-5, 9-4 Missouri Valley Conference) survived its first three-game losing streak since 2009 and defeated Missouri State on Saturday. The Shockers play Drake (11-13, 5-8) on Wednesday, hopeful that the experience will produce a tougher, smarter, more united team. Coach Gregg Marshall turned his starting lineup over to his four seniors after days of meetings and consternation. They wanted to take charge and he let experience take the lead.

“It will bring us a lot closer and let us know that if you slack off or if you don’t bring the energy every night, you can lose three games in a row and lose to teams that you shouldn’t lose to,” Williams said. “If you’re not hungry, like we were in the beginning, you will lose.”

As late as mid-January, this season set up the new Shockers for a fall. They blew out Northern Iowa in their MVC opener, giving newcomers no reason to believe the talk about gritty conference opponents. WSU kept winning, even as some of their good habits slipped away.

“When you’re winning, you kind of don’t learn until you get hit a couple times,” Williams said.

The Shockers stopped their slide just in time. They are in a three-way tie atop the MVC with Indiana State and Creighton. They alone can control their destiny — win out and win the title. Their NCAA Tournament resume remains solid — ESPN’s Joe Lunardi places them as a No. 8 seed — with a declining margin for error.

Wednesday’s game starts a tough stretch, highlighted by games at Creighton, Illinois State and Indiana State. Drake is the only team on the remaining schedule with a losing record.

The Shocker team that shot poorly and played a half-step slow on defense won’t survive. The team that passed the ball crisply and played aggressive defense to beat Missouri State by 29 points has a chance.

“Tough times always make you stronger,” guard Malcolm Armstead said. “It’s going to help us down the road. Now we know how to handle the situations. We’ve got to get more stops. We’ve got to execute. We’ve got to get out and run.”

Drake is 2-5 in MVC road games, where its three-point shooting and scoring slip. WSU defeated Drake 75-63 on Jan. 2, holding the Bulldogs to 28-percent three-point shooting, well below its standard of 43.9 percent in home games and 40 percent in all games.

“They have a lot of weapons,” Marshall said.

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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