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Bench production becomes late-season key for Wichita State

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at 10:29 a.m.

Photos

Evansville at No. 4 Wichita State

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Koch Arena

Records: UE 10-12, 3-6 MVC; WSU 22-0, 9-0

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: ESPNU

Evansville at No. 4 Wichita State

PEvansvilleHt.Yr.PtsReb
FBlake Simmons6-5Fr.9.23.2
CEgidijus Mockevicius6-10So.8.97.8
GAdam Wing6-4So.8.23.9
GDuane Gibson6-3Fr.7.0x-4.0
G D.J. Balentine6-2So.23.0x-4.2
Wichita St.
FCleanthony Early6-8Sr.16.36.5
FTekele Cotton6-3Jr.9.34.8
CChadrack Lufile6-9Sr.5.85.0
GRon Baker6-3So.12.84.0
G Fred VanVleet6-1So.12.0x-5.3

x-assists

Evansville (10-12, 3-6): Evansville is the only remaining Missouri Valley team that hasn’t gotten a shot at the Shockers, with the return game at Evansville on Feb. 16. The Aces have been scrapping after an 0-3 start to Valley play, grabbing wins over Southern Illinois, Loyola and Bradley with losses to Illinois State and Bradley coming by a combined total of seven points. Balentine leads the Valley in scoring at 23.0 points per game.

Wichita State (22-0, 9-0): Gregg Marshall seems to have settled on Lufile as the starter in the post, but gave him the quick pull for Darius Carter in Tuesday’s 57-45 win over Loyola, when Lufile struggled early on the offensive end. None of the Shockers’ post trio of Lufile, Carter or Kadeem Coleby has scored in double digits in the last three games — not since Carter and Lufile went for 10 points each in a 68-58 win at Indiana State on Jan. 18.

RPIs as of Friday: UE 219, WSU 7.

When Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall points at you, there’s your shot.

Whatever happens after that is on you.

That’s the takeaway from the reserves who are trying to create much-needed depth for No. 4 Wichita State headed into the stretch run of Missouri Valley Conference play and the postseason.

“Marshall always stresses that he needs more guys than his starters to play a lot of minutes,” WSU senior Nick Wiggins said. “He wants to feel comfortable throwing guys in there that he has faith in. So the guys that come off the bench need to produce.”

The Shockers (22-0, 9-0 MVC) have four players that have started all 22 games headed into Saturday afternoon’s matchup against Evansville (10-12, 3-6) at Koch Arena – Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton.

The other starter has been a mix of post players Chadrack Lufile (nine starts), Kadeem Coleby (eight) and Darius Carter (five), with Lufile starting the last seven.

“It’s not just the starters, not even just the first guys off the bench that need to come out and help push the train for us,” Lufile said. “You know what (Marshall) wants because you’re seeing it every day in practice. Go in the game and have your head right, have confidence.”

Marshall usually goes four deep off the bench with two of the three big men, Wiggins and Evan Wessel. Freshman forward Derail Green has seen an uptick in his minutes since Valley play began, averaging 5.4 minutes in nine conference games after averaging 2.8 minutes in 13 non-conference games.

“When you can count on the eighth, ninth, 10th or even 11th guy to help us sustain a lead or even win, that’s a big benefit,” Wessel said. “We have to get after it as a whole, everyone on the team has to find a way to contribute.”

The Shockers’ bench has been good in some areas. The six players who have come off the bench are averaging 17.3 rebounds, which is 43.6 percent of WSU’s total boards.

The reserves aren’t getting a lot of assists, but starter Fred VanVleet distributes the ball so well – his 117 assists (5.3 per game) are 40.3 percent of WSU’s total – and he’s the most durable Shocker at 32.4 minutes.

Where the bench is lacking has been scoring. Carter leads the way at 7.6 points, with Lufile (5.5) and Wiggins (5.3) not far behind.

Coleby’s 2.8 points versus 12.5 minutes and Wessel’s 1.3 points against 13.3 minutes are where the dropoff is felt the most. Wessel has one basket in the Shockers’ last nine games.

“I’ve been struggling offensively, I know that as well as anyone else,” Wessel said. “But defense and rebounding are other ways to affect a game and that’s more stuff that you can control. I try to do what I can to help the team.”

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @t_adame.

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