Shockers coach Gregg Marshall surprised Wichita State University fans on Saturday afternoon by showing up to a pep rally at the downtown hotel where most of the fans are staying — just a few hours before the scheduled tipoff of his team’s Elite Eight game against Ohio State.
Marshall, speaking in a quiet voice often drowned out by the screaming of the hundreds of fans gathered in the ballroom, said his team was ready.
“They’re as tough as you could ever have as a basketball team,” he said. “They could probably be a football team. We don’t need football team. We already have one.”
He told members of the crowd, who often interrupted him by shouting declarations of support and admiration, that he and guard Malcolm Armstead had just done a five-minute interview on CBS with Charles Barkley and Greg Gumbel.
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The network had asked Buckeyes coach Thad Matta for an interview, but he declined, Marshall said.
“He was busy doing other things,” Marshall said. “So it become an infomercial on national television for Wichita and WSU.”
Fans at the pep rally bought T-shirts, gathered up WSU signs and sang along as the pep band performed an extra loud rendition of “You Don’t Want to Go to War,” a fight song that has gained popularity during the season.
President John Bardo also spoke at the rally, remarking on the excitement the Shockers had brought to his first months on the job.
“Our guys have earned the right to be here,” he said. “They’ve worked hard, and they’ve worked together.”
Tipoff for the game was scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CDT.