Now the grind of the MVC schedule really starts for WSU. It’s silly to say the first six games came easily, but, hey, things went a little too easily for the Shockers in most of them. The loss at Creighton was frustrating, but it’s one the Shockers can dig out of. They’re 2-2 in MVC road games, which puts them on track to finish 5-4 or 4-5, which would be solid. I think this team is capable of 6-3.
Now there’s a sense of urgency. The Shockers (and the rest) of the MVC can’t let Northern Iowa run away. Should UNI win at Koch Arena on Tuesday, it will have at least a two-game lead on the field with – pay attention – wins AT WSU, Illinois State, Creighton and Southern Illinois. I know the Panthers weakened a bit last season after building a big lead. MVC teams can’t count on that happening again. After UNI, WSU plays three of its next four on the road. Its home game is against Illinois State, the lone MVC team that handled the Shockers this season.
We got a good look at how important Clevin Hannah is. As if we didn’t know. If I were an MVC coach, I would go right at him and try to get him to foul. All the foul trouble makes it hard to evaluate the game. Creighton played better than it did a week ago. WSU played worse, largely because its best players sat on the bench far too much. With a lot working against them, the Shockers had a chance to win.Perhap’s Hannah’s absence affected the big men the most. The Shockers didn’t get much out of any of them. Foul trouble played a part, to be sure.The Shockers put together a 16-2 record by jumping on most teams early, and then playing them to a standstill after. Creighton missed its first seven shots and made six baskets in the first half. In past games, that’s where WSU builds its lead.
The officiating crew missed some calls. WSU coach Gregg Marshall was unhappy. Those things happen. Creighton shot 11 more free throws than WSU. That happens on the road. It has always happened. It will always happen to road teams, for a variety of reasons. You better be prepared to adjust. WSU was not. The Shockers foul – 19.9 times a game on average, which is third in the MVC. Steve Olson, David Hall and Terry Wymer ref a lot of games in other big-time conferences, as you can see here at this useful website. All three did NCAA Tournament games last season. Hall did a regional final last season. So those are three qualified refs with lots of experience in big games. WSU’s loss is not on them. The Shockers lost a tough game to an opponent they hate losing to, and the refs didn’t help. After the emotion fades, however, WSU better realize those circumstances can happen again and be ready. I think it will. The Shockers usually work through problems effectively, given some time to scheme and practice.
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Around the Valley
Creighton’s Justin Carter helped win the game by grabbing a loose ball while some of the Shockers watched.Bradley, just as Creighton did, gets revenge for an earlier big loss.Kirk Wessler wonders where these Braves hid for most of the season.Meanwhile, in Springfield, Missouri State is no longer the darling of the MVC. The Bears are in a toughness slump. Things do change quickly in conference play.Except in Cedar Falls, where Northern Iowa held Indiana State to 40 points in a 22-point win. The Sycamores are still without leading scorer and rebounder Dwayne Lathan.