Individually, Wichita State's big men are an incomplete group, each with a weak spot. As a group, they've got it all, and the individual weaknesses don't matter as much.
They just need to play that way. All together, and with a lot of passion. That way, J.T. Durley's scoring can complement Gabe Blair's rebounding, which can benefit from Aaron Ellis' defense and Garrett Stutz can find more ways to contribute.
The Shockers (6-2) haven't had all four playing well often enough this season. An 83-69 loss at San Diego State on Dec. 4 put all the big men on notice for a lack of physical play. Friday's activity against an undersized Nicholls State team suggests WSU's bigs understand how they need to perform entering tonight's game against Alabama A&M (3-3) at Koch Arena.
"It don't think it was a masterpiece," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "It was better. It was hard to be worse than what I saw out (in San Diego). We scored inside. We went to the foul line. We got some second-chance opportunities. Those weren't happening at San Diego State."
That attitude shift needs to become permanent soon. The Shockers, after tonight, step up in class with games against LSU and Tulsa before Missouri Valley Conference play starts.
"After the last game we played at San Diego State (Marshall) got on us about being a physical and asserting ourselves more," Blair said. "That game, that prepared us to be the type of players we need to be all season."
The Shockers out-rebounded Nicholls State, which doesn't own a player taller than 6-foot-6, 39-23 with 16 offensive rebounds. They scored 16 second-chance points and held the Colonels to one. San Diego State, with a front-line equal in size, overwhelmed the Shockers with a nine-rebound edge and scored 48 points in the lane.
Marshall saw something to like about all four of his rotation front-court players on Friday. Blair started his first game as a Shocker and led the defensive effort against Nicholls State's leading scorer. Ellis played 25 minutes off the bench and registered season highs with 10 points and nine rebounds. Durley scored WSU's first eight points. Stutz played a solid 15 minutes with six points and a season-high five rebounds.
"He was very active on the offensive glass," Marshall said. "He was energized. He was a little more like what we've grown to really appreciate about his game."
Durley said the Shockers strayed from their identity as a tough team amid all the talk of playing faster and scoring more early this season. In their first seven games, the Shockers lived on three-point shots and layups. They averaged 76.9 points and didn't need to play tough all the time. San Diego State changed that way of thinking.
Marshall wants the Shockers to rebound better, score around the rim and draw fouls.
"It's a mind focus now that we've got to play defense and rebound like the old days," Durley said. "We're trying to run more, and that's on your mind. We had to get back to our roots."