Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall uses a new description for turnovers, one designed to put those coach-killing mistakes in the harshest light possible.
Turnovers are either selfish or careless. After a lazy pass or an out-of-control drive that levels a defender, he wants his players to ask themselves which trait to blame.
"If you jump in the air and get a charge, that's selfish," WSU guard Joe Ragland said. "He's been stressing that lately."
Turnovers are a particular no-no tonight in what should be a low-possession game against Utah State (4-4). In contrast to opponents such as UNLV and Cal State Fullerton, the Aggies will try to control the pace and run plays on every possession. Possessions will be at a premium. WSU (6-2) is averaging 57.7 shots and 74.3 points a game. Utah State averages 50.8 and 62.6.
"They really execute," Marshall said. "I wouldn't say they're a slow team — they try to push on misses. But they execute, and they get quality shots. And they really defend you. Sometimes it takes a little longer to get a shot against them."
WSU's turnover trend is good in recent games. Marshall started using the phrase, borrowed from ESPN broadcaster Jimmy Dykes, after WSU committed 18 against Fullerton on Dec. 1.
"I had never heard that, but I absolutely agree and love the comparison," Marshall said. "Assist to Jimmy."
In practices leading up to last week's win over then-No. 18 UNLV, Marshall hammered home that point. WSU committed 15 or more turnovers in four of its first seven games. That number dropped to a season-low six against UNLV on Sunday and 12 at Tulsa on Wednesday.
"It's critical that we get shots, and good shots," Marshall said. "When we throw the ball away, that's just another opportunity wasted."
Senior guard Toure Murry improved his assist-to-turnover ratio more dramatically than any Shocker. He committed 11 turnovers and handed out eight assists in WSU's first four games. In the next four, he committed nine turnovers and recorded 19 assists.
"He wants us to make smart decisions," Murry said. "(Marshall) would rather us get a bad shot than a turnover. A turnover is nothing. With a shot, it gives us a chance to offensive rebound."
Tonight's game is a return game from the BracketBusters Series in 2010. Utah State defeated the Shockers 68-58 in Logan, Utah. After NCAA Tournament berths and Western Athletic Conference titles in 2010 and 2011, the Aggies are rebuilding. They return one starter, guard Brockeith Pane.
For the first time in a long time, the Aggies are struggling. Senior forward Brady Jardine, who averaged 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in three games, is out with a foot injury. Freshman guard Steven Thornton, who started two games and averaged 2.7 points, quit the team this week to transfer closer to home in California.
A 67-54 loss to Denver ended a 33-game home win streak. Coach Stew Morrill has started seven different lineups.
"We're pretty fragile right now," Morrill said earlier this week. "We get knocked around a little bit and don't respond. If we don't get more physical and get a little mad and try and compete, we're just going to keep getting beat."
Remembering 1970 — WSU representatives will present Utah Stat with a bronze plaque during halftime to commemorate the school's "compassionate response" after the 1970 Shocker football plane crash.
WSU was on its way to play Utah State in Logan, Utah, when one of two planes carrying the team crashed in Colorado, killing 31 people. The second plane landed in Logan.
"Upon their arrival, they were shown incredible kindess and compassion from Utah State," the plaque reads. "These universities are forever bound by what they shared that day."
Several Utah State officials are scheduled to attend, including athletic director Scott Barnes and former quarterback Tony Adams.