Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall loves that he coaches nice young men. Compared to some other programs, Shocker basketball is a no-drama zone for behavior.
There are times, however, he wouldn't mind if a Shocker or two developed a nasty edge. A player with the sauce to — literally or figuratively — grab teammates and shake might help in situations such as Tuesday's loss at Evansville.
"I don' t think we have one of those guys," Marshall said. "I'd like to see it."
That's not to say there aren't good leaders and tough-minded players on the team. In Marshall's mind, it lacks the figure who is going to lock the locker room door and demand changes in a persuasive manner.
"I don't have guys that really get upset very much," he said. "They just deal with it and go on with it."
The Shockers (20-6, 9-5 Missouri Valley Conference) play Missouri State (17-8, 7-7) tonight. Every person in Koch Arena will want to see how they rebound from the 65-62 loss at last-place Evansville, a result that shook WSU fandom to its core.
In junior J.T. Durley's mind, the recovery started on Thursday with a players meeting in the locker room.
"We talked about recommitting and getting back to what we had going," Durley said. "There was no laughing and joking around. It was real serious, and we had a real team meeting, as if there were coaches in the room."
Durley said leadership exists, even if it's not loud and dramatic. They let Marshall handle the volume while they try to influence quietly. Their way is to pull a teammate aside for instruction or admonishment. It's a group effort, led by the older players.
"We're so nice and good fellas to each other that we don't put our teammates on blast," Durley said. "People get caught up in wanting to see the leadership, instead of recognizing the leadership. There's a lot of leadership on our team, even though it might not be seen as how Coach does it."
The Shockers took off Wednesday and Thursday to satisfy NCAA rules. They practiced Friday and Saturday with the goal of remembering how they reached 20 wins.
"Being more focused and caring more," senior guard Clevin Hannah said. "We can finish strong and have a good season."
WSU is 3-3 since a win over Northern Iowa pulled the Shockers to within a game of first place on Jan. 19. The loss to Evansville highlighted slippage in many areas. Some games the problems are fatal; some times the Shockers survive. Taken together, they are a sign for WSU to clean up and prepare for the final weeks of the regular season.
"Careless mistakes can definitely be improved," Hannah said. "(Evansville) got too many easy baskets, a lot of lay-ups."
Against Evansville, WSU shot poorly, committed 19 turnovers and 25 fouls. It allowed Indiana State to shoot 60 percent for much of the game and build a 15-point lead before WSU rallied. Northern Iowa beat up the Shockers on the offensive boards.
"My emotions are twisted and torn," Marshall said. "I'm pleased, for the most part, when you take the season overall at 20-6 and second place in the Valley. But the last game just gnaws at you. And the last couple games have gnawed at me. Indiana State — the way we played. The fact we didn't box out well enough at Northern Iowa. We've got to figure out a way to right the ship."