TERRE HAUTE, Ind. —Last season, road games took a toll on Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. The Shockers usually lost, and the effort it took for Marshall to try to will his basketball team forward drained him.
This season, Marshall is getting help. The players understand he can't provide the sole source of emotion and swagger away from Koch Arena.
"Last year... he was pouring his all out and we weren't doing that," senior Clevin Hannah said. "This year, we're taking that to heed and he doesn't have to do as much."
As the Shockers (15-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley Conference) prepare to hit the bulk of their road schedule, they look more comfortable taking on unfamiliar arenas, rowdy fans and referees. WSU plays at Indiana State (11-5, 3-2) tonight with a 3-1 record in road games. WSU won at Indiana State last season. Saturday, the Shockers go to Creighton, where they haven't won since 1992.
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"We've been to those gyms and we know what kind of atmosphere it involves and what it takes to win," WSU junior Graham Hatch said.
After a shaky Valley road opener at Illinois State, WSU rebounded with an impressive win at Missouri State a week ago. The Shockers also own wins at Cleveland State and UMKC, both games WSU controlled throughout and won by double-digit margins.
In those efforts, the Shockers looked much different than the past two seasons. Away from Koch Arena, Marshall talked about blank looks and quiet locker rooms. The Shockers went 2-16 in MVC road games in his first two seasons.
Many of the players who went through those trying times are back. They've worked to set a better tone on the road. They led Cleveland State 13-5 on their way to a 38-24 halftime lead. They led UMKC by as many as 15 in the first half. Then they dominated Missouri State — unbeaten at home — by building a 19-point halftime advantage.
"We have guys stepping up with that energy," Hatch said. "They don't only talk about — because a lot of people talk about the energy and stuff. The one player that really shows us and does it on the court is Clevin. It starts with him."
So much of what makes WSU successful does come from Hannah, its point guard and lone senior. When he gets in his defensive stance and disrupts ball-handlers, others follow. When he dives on the floor for loose balls, others follow.
Marshall likes the developing road attitude on his team.
"This team is not a rah-rah team," Marshall said. "It is starting to develop an inner confidence, but it's not an outward confidence. They don't go around clapping their hands and whooping and hollering."
Marshall wouldn't mind a more demonstrative bunch. Many of his past teams carried themselves with more boldness. The Shockers are quiet before games, and it works for this group.
"This year... during the game what they're saying with their actions speaks volumes," Marshall said. "As opposed to dreading and fearing the road, you look forward to the challenge and you feel like if you go and play well you have a good chance of being successful."