The Shockers are back from the holiday break and they will feel it after today. The best news for coach Gregg Marshall is that all of them returned on time – a rarity. WSU practiced and lifted weights on Sunday night, working almost five hours. They practiced again Monday morning, lifted after lunch and will practice again from 4:30-6:30.“I’m sure they’ll be pretty tired,” he said. “This will be the third practice, plus two weight-training sessions. . . They will be a little mentally and physically taxed when we get to this practice, but we need a good practice.”
Marshall started his evaluation of WSU’s first 11 games by praising the offense. The Shockers average 79. 5 points and are making 47.5 percent of their shots, 36.5 percent from three-point range. After running at a deficit early in the season, WSU passed opponents in free throws made (170-154) and attempted (247-228).WSU’s defensive numbers are very good. Marshall wants to see more before he buys in. The Shockers are holding teams to 39.5 percent shooting and 25.9 percent from three-point range. They are also forcing 15.5 turnovers a game, about three more a game than last season’s team. “There’s been times when (the defense) has been really good,” he said. “There have been times when it’s been just OK. Maybe we’ve played some teams that are not great shooters. We’ve played some people that took some ill-advised (shots) and maybe aren’t great three-point shooters.”Marshall will continue trying to build depth. Nine Shockers average 10 or more minutes.WSU took five days off after playing on Dec. 19 and returning on Dec. 25. “Four is the right number, in my opinion, just history,” he said. “This year, we could not get a game on the 21st. We could not get a game on the 20th. We had a hard time getting a game on the 19th until Newman stepped up.”Marshall liked what the Newman game did for his team’s power ranking (RPI). The Shockers start conference play No. 28. Playing Newman, an NCAA Division II school, doesn’t count for RPI purposes. The Shockers had dropped to No. 50 after playing Chicago State. “We’ve steadily come back up as we did not play another team in the 300s or low 200s, and people we have played have played well since then,” he said. UNLV is WSU’s biggest aid. The Rebels defeated Illinois and California, both in the top 65 of the RPI. Utah State has won four straight since leaving Koch Arena, including beating a top-100 foe in Kent State.WSU practices Tuesday morning before leaving for Peoria, Ill. It plays Wednesday night at Bradley, where WSU is 2-2 under Marshall. The Shockers won all three meetings last season.