I won’t call that a moral victory, because Wichita State thought it was good enough to win and almost did. They’re not a team that needs to take consolation in close losses. I think it was another step in the learning process most teams must go through. This team sped up that process with this season’s success. Nothing that happened at UNI should be discouraging. I consider it one of WSU’s better efforts of the season. The Panthers are a better, more veteran, more consistent team.
The Shockers played a legit NCAA team – experienced and tested – to almost a draw on the road. It’s fair to be disappointed in the free throws and the rebounds. The whole package looked pretty good for the Shockers. They shot 45.2 percent from the field to UNI’s 38 percent. They committed 11 turnovers. They survived subpar scoring nights from Clevin Hannah and J.T. Durley. They made 8 of 19 threes.
UNI, largely because Jordan Eglseder is in better shape, is an improved team over last season. It’s in the conversation with the best Southern Illinois-Creighton-Wichita State teams of recent season, teams that won NCAA Tournament games. That’s different than last season.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall didn’t have a problem with J.T. Durley’s three-pointer near the end of the game, pointing out Durley made one moments before. I don’t have a problem with Durley shooting a three. That shot at that time didn’t make sense to me. I will watch the replay when I get home to see if my initial impression stands up. UNI did a great job of making Clevin Hannah work hard and give up the ball with double teams. The Shockers survived subpar scoring games from Hannah and Durley at SIU. Doing it against UNI is a different matter. Foul trouble continues to be a problem for Durley. The Shockers need more than 25 minutes and eight points. Toure Murry made more than one three for the first time since he made three at Indiana State on Jan. 13. The home/road difference: Marshall shortened his bench at Cedar Falls and played six people 25 or more minutes. UNI coach Ben Jacobson went deeper on Wednesday – in Wichita his reserves weren’t a factor. The biggest factor on Wednesday was Lucas O’Rear, who looked like the energy guy he was last season. He is non-stop action and will be a big boost to the Panthers if he continues to contribute like that. The NCAA resume took a hit. We won’t know if it’s fatal for weeks. I think finishing strong keeps them in the conversation, and you just never know. Winning their six remaining MVC games makes the Shockers 25-5 and then a lot depends on Utah State. The big thing is not to let the UNI loss take the edge off for Indiana State on Saturday. Sometimes it’s tough to watch the WSU offense with Demetric Williams when Hannah sits. Marshall, to his credit, is doing the right thing by playing Williams in those situations. He spots him a few minutes in each half. Williams is good enough to help. Next season, he needs to help. He’s not going to learn on the bench.