Wichita State's Clevin Hannah fights for the ball with Evansville's Denver Holmes.
The best way to explain why Evansville is such a handful is to credit Aces coach Marty Simmons. I thought he did the most with the least last season. This season, he has his team playing hard under difficult circumstances. They are young. There is not a lot of talent on the roster. Clearly, they refuse to give up on the season. Totally forgot to mention the contributions of walk-on Mason Felter in today’s Eagle. Felter, playing because of Gabe Blair’s injury, scored his first points as a Shocker and gave WSU seven good minutes off the bench with two rebounds and a block. Those were important contributions in a tight game. WSU coach Gregg Marshall mentioned that his team may have hit a wall. It will be interesting to see how Saturday’s game at Utah State plays out. Both teams played Wednesday. Neither team will have an abundance of prep time. Maybe the fresh opponent will shake things up for WSU. I remember in 2006 thinking that MVC teams didn’t look good. In the NCAA Tournament, we found out why. It’s hard to look good in the MVC, especially now. That’s not to say the Shockers don’t need sharpening up in a variety of areas. They do. WSU shot well against the Aces, which may be a sign it is handling Evansville’s physical defense (and that it played at home). Missed free throws – 13 – made the game closer than necessary. If Evansville is going to play defense that way, WSU needs to make it pay at the line. J.T. Durley ended up with a good line – 16 points and nine rebounds. Combine his numbers with Garrett Stutz’s 13 and 3 and the Shockers enjoyed a great game from the post. Still, Marshall would like to see Durley assert himself earlier in games – he scored eight of his points in overtime. J.T. doesn’t seem as aggressive or confident on offense as he was earlier in the season. When WSU doesn’t get consistent post scoring, the offense suffers. WSU can finish no lower than the No. 3 seed in the MVC. They have a one-game lead over Illinois State with two to play. WSU is at Bradley and home against SIU. Illinois State gets Indiana State at home and travels to Northern Iowa. The Panthers have the title wrapped up. They don’t seem like the kind of team to mail in an effort, especially on senior night for Koch, Eglseder and Farokhmanesh. The most worrisome thing about the Utah State game is not the Utah State game. It’s how the travel, the late-night game and the difficult opponent affect the game at Bradley three days later. A lot of things are stacked against WSU in the trip to Logan. Following it up with a trip to Peoria adds to the dangers of this stretch. Six times WSU has won more than 22 games.