Through seven games, Wichita State could count on its offense looking good. The Shockers shot a lot of three-pointers and layups.
On Friday, they needed to win when nothing looked pretty. WSU shot miserably from three-point range and Nicholls State’s patterned offense choked off fast-break chances.
The Shockers turned to less glamorous assets in a 68-50 win at Koch Arena. They rebounded. They made free throws. They took care of the basketball. Their physical defense made life rough on Colonels star Anatoly Bose.
“That was more like a Valley game,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said, referencing the physical defenses and patient offenses populating the Missouri Valley Conference. “We didn’t shoot the ball great, but I thought we really defended well, the first half in particular.”
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WSU (6-2) led by 15 points at halftime and double digits most of the second half. While the Shockers never lost control, the Colonels (4-3) never made it easy. WSU missed 14 of 19 three-point shots — by far its worst performance of the season behind the arc. In the seven previous games, WSU made 40 percent or more five times.
The Shockers earned layups with rebounds or drives — they totaled two points off fast breaks.
“They had us scouted,” WSU forward Aaron Ellis said. “That’s how it’s going to be in the Valley — it’s going to be harder to score. These games help us, especially for later on down the road.”
Guard David Kyles endured his first off night of the season, going 2 for 8 from the field and scoring five points, 10 below his average.
Those flaws didn’t turn fatal because the Shockers did the gritty things. The big men, unhappy with their performance in a loss at then-No. 17 San Diego State, gave Marshall something closer to the effort he wants.
WSU made 17 of 19 free throws (89.5 percent), its best accuracy of the season. It out-rebounded the Colonels — expected against a team with no player taller than 6-foot-6 — by 16. The Shockers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and scored 16 second-chance points.
Toure Murry led WSU with 13 points. J.T. Durley scored WSU’s first eight points and 10 of its first 11. Ellis added a season-high 10 points and tied his career-high with nine rebounds.
“That’s why it’s a team,” Murry said. “David was a little off tonight. Other guys stepped up. J.T. stepped up in the paint and opened it up for the outside.”
The Shockers broke the game open with a 13-3 run to end the first half. Two offensive rebounds — one on a tip-out by Gabe Blair — gave Graham Hatch a three-pointer for a 24-16 lead. Murry and Hatch both drove to the basket to produce three-point plays. Ellis finished the half by rebounding Hatch’s miss and then his own miss to score for a 34-19 lead.
The Colonels rely on two scorers, and only one produced. Bose, who averages 25.3 points, scored 26. He threatened to make it interesting by hitting three straight threes to open the half, cutting WSU’s lead to eight points. Foul trouble limited Fred Hunter, Nicholls State’s only inside threat, and he finished with six points, 10 below his average.
The Shockers worked hard on Bose, who made 7 of 19 shots and 5 of 12 threes. Blair, Ellis, Ben Smith and Graham Hatch all took turns running around screens to chase Bose. The Shockers helped off Colonels who didn’t shoot well and tried to harass Bose.
“Our teammates had to help us out,” Ellis said. “When he caught it, we just had to make him take tough shots. When somebody takes that many shots, he’s going to hit a couple of them.”