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Commentary Bob Lutz: Shocker big men have room to grow

  • Published Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at 10:57 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at 8:29 a.m.

Wichita State's Chadrack Lufile (11/14/13)

After WSU's 79-62 win over William & Mary

Wichita State's Ron Baker (11/14/13)

After WSU's 79-62 victory over William & Mary

Paul Suellentrop and Bob Lutz recap WSU vs. William and Mary

Paul Suellentrop and Bob Lutz break down the game.


Who was the Shocker player of the game against William and Mary?

Gregg Marshall wouldn’t be where he is today if he didn’t pick a nit from time to time. It’s what coaches do, in all sports and at all levels.

And the really good ones can find concerns even in a 17-point win, which is why Marshall was stoic after the Shockers thumped William & Mary on Thursday night at Koch Arena.

“Thank goodness for second halves,” he said.

Thank goodness indeed. Because the thumping certainly didn’t happen in the first 20 minutes.

The Shockers seemed blindsided by William & Mary’s first-half offensive assault. The Tribe, coming off a 13-17 season in 2012-13 and picked to finish fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association, went up 13-3 on a team that seven months ago played in the Final Four.

And the game wasn’t even four minutes old.

The Tribe was scoring inside and outside. And the Shockers looked flat, as if the late finish of the Monday night/Tuesday morning game against Western Kentucky was lingering.

Wichita State did get to within 39-38 by halftime, but not because of the big men who will have to carry this team in the interior.

Six-foot-nine, 251-pound Kadeem Coleby, 6-9, 266-pound Chadrack Lufile and 6-7, 235-pound Darius Carter combined for one first-half rebound.

Let’s just say they weren’t exactly pushing their weight around.

Coleby is playing his first season for WSU after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette. Carter is a junior college transfer and Lufile played limited minutes last season. So you can make a case that they are still finding their way.

Or you can make the case that they’re playing soft and not doing what Gregg Marshall expects them to do. I suspect that’s the case Marshall made at halftime because Coleby, Lufile and Carter were a lot more active in the second half, which coincided with Wichita State blowing open the game.

They had seven rebounds among them in the second half. Still not great, but a lot better than one. And Coleby was the main instigator in a offensive flurry to open the second half, scoring six of his in the first 4:44.

“I had a bad first half so I was trying to catch up a little there in the second half,” Coleby said. “Just trying to help get us back on track.”

The Shockers’ three big men also scored 15 of their 19 points in the second half.

“Those guys didn’t do anything in the first half,” Marshall said. “One rebound between the three of them. That’s obviously not going to get it done. What they did in the second half is certainly better and it was good enough to get us a 17-point win.”

It’s going to be interesting to watch this team develop. The Shockers are set on the perimeter with point guard Fred VanVleet and wing players Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton.

Cleanthony Early is a preseason honorable mention All-American as a small forward. He scored 14 points to go with nine rebounds against William & Mary and is a centerpiece of this team.

Trying to figure out the center position is the biggest challenge of the early season for Marshall and his coaching staff. The good thing is that there’s a lot of size to work with.

Coleby, Lufile and Carter look good in an airport. And they could probably pick up a 747.

But they’ve got to be more active, especially on the backboards. It’s something they hear every day.

WSU had a size advantage over William & Mary, but won the rebounding battle by only 38-30.

The Shockers’ second leading rebounder Thursday night was the 6-2 Cotton, who had eight. Four more than Carter, five more than Lufile and six more than Coleby.

“Rebounding is something we have to do as big men,” Lufile said. “Obviously, that’s something the coaches are going to enforce. We have to do a better job.”

Marshall has said he’ll go with the hot hand in the post. Coleby so far has looked like the most-accomplished offensive player and a favorite target of lob passes from WSU’s perimeter players.

But Carter came to the Shockers with impressive credentials, having averaged 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds for Vincennes (Ind.) Junior College last season. He had a season-high 31 points and 21 rebounds in a game against Lake Land.

So far as a Shocker, though, he hasn’t found a rhythm. He did find Marshall’s doghouse late in Thursday’s game after forcing up a shot against a triple-team.

It’s a good bet Carter will settle in and become a productive player. There’s no reason why Coleby and Lufile can’t do the same.

The good news is that the Shockers have three really big guys to mix and match.

“Other than that one shot, I thought Darius was good,” Marshall said. “He played pretty hard, had four defensive rebounds. He’s just got to continue to get better. We like him in practice and think he’s going to be a big part of our team.”

He’s probably right. Until then, though, it’s understandable to nitpick. That’s how teams improve.

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

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