Saturday provided an example of the beauty and the pain of conference play. WSU got breaks early in the MVC schedule when it faced Bradley without Taylor Brown and Indiana State with Dwayne Lathan and Drake when it was clueless. Saturday, the breaks went against the Shockers. They faced Drake when the Bulldogs were playing their best, and they basically ran WSU out of the Knapp Center. WSU coach Gregg Marshall praised Drake coach Mark Phelps after the game, and Phelps deserved it. He is doing a fine job. The Bulldogs play hard and are fun to watch. It will be interesting to see where they finish.
I will call it the first truly disappointing loss in Marshall’s three seasons. Sure, WSU struggled the past two seasons. It lost a lot of games, coughed up a lead or two and played poorly on the road. There were always extenuating circumstances that, in my mind, made those losses at least somewhat understandable. Marshall took on a rebuilding chore, and a lot of things went against his team.
Saturday, however, the Shockers were playing for something big. They didn’t seem to realize that until it was too late, even giving credit to Drake for its part in tearing up WSU.
Drake proved itself to be a worthy opponent after starting MVC play with four straight losses. Still, Saturday’s game was one WSU could have won. To be down 10-points or more a significant portion of the game is a disappointment. WSU gave UNI a chance to build a two-game lead at the halfway point. It missed a chance to separate from the pack beneath in the MVC standings. It lost to a 200-plus RPI team, which hurts the NCAA resume and doesn’t help land a good BracketBusters game. And it makes us wonder about road games, again. That’s two in a row where the Shockers didn’t play with the confidence they normally do.
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That’s a lot of doom and gloom for a team that is, after all, 17-4 and in second place in the MVC. The Shockers are capable of winning every game they play the rest of the way. They need to play much better than they did on Saturday to do so.
Nice road win for the WSU women at Missouri State. It has to be a good sign for coach Jody Adams for her team to shoot so well away from home.
Around the Valley
Illinois State comes to WSU on Wednesday after an overtime loss at SIU. The middle of the MVC is a real mess. The Redbirds can drag WSU right down into it.Topekan Kyle Weems is the BMOC at MSU.Creighton, playing at MSU tonight, is wrestling with words such as scared, composure and execution.Bradley is almost as hot as Drake after Saturday’s win over Evansville. Evansville’s men’s and women’s team are 0-16 combined in MVC play.Indiana State could help out WSU with a win at home over Northern Iowa. Lathan is doing more in practice and might play. I don’t expect the Panthers to lose two in a row.