Wichita State’s rebounding reputation is such that Missouri Valley Conference coaches don’t think about beating the Shockers on the boards. They think about surviving.
WSU lost three of its top four rebounders from last season, when it led the MVC in rebound margin — 8.4 rebounds better than opponents. The Shockers are smaller and less experienced in the frontcourt this season. Yet they lead the MVC in rebound margin at plus-8.6 and rank 12th nationally.
“Getting out-rebounded by two by Wichita, you feel like you’ve won that battle,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said earlier this season.
The Shockers (12-3, 3-1 MVC) face one of the conference’s top rebounding teams tonight when Illinois State (11-4, 3-1 MVC) visit Koch Arena. The teams are part of the four-way tie atop the Valley standings.
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The Redbirds are plus-4.3 (third in the MVC) in rebound margin with forward Jackie Carmichael (7.9) ranking fourth individually and forward Jon Ekey (5.7) ranking 12th. WSU center Garrett Stutz (6.8) and forward Carl Hall (6.7) are both in the top 10.
Where WSU builds its advantage is with its guards. Toure Murry averages 5.1 rebounds and David Kyles averages 4.1, almost double his career average. Point guard Joe Ragland averages three a game after averaging 1.7 as a junior.
“It’s all five guys — point guard through center,” Stutz said. “Everyone has to rebound. If you don’t rebound, (coach Gregg Marshall) pulls you out and nobody likes to sit on the bench.”
Stutz has been a good rebounder throughout his career. He is playing more minutes as a senior and his rebounding numbers rose. The addition of Hall, a 6-foot-8 junior from Northwest Florida State College, complements the rest of the lineup. His job is to go get the basketball. He does that as well as any in the MVC. His 47 offensive rebounds rank second in the MVC. Southern Illinois’ Mamadou Seck has 51, and he plays almost eight minutes more a game than Hall.
“Carl Hall is a better rebounder than some of the guys they’ve had in the past,” SIU coach Chris Lowery said. “They’ve allowed him to do what he does well and not ask him to do more than that. That’s why he’s having success. They run plays through the older guys who understand what they’re doing, and he’s the cleanup guy.”
For Hall, it’s a perfect fit. The word on him is out, and teams are sometimes sending two players to try to keep him off the boards. Even with that attention, he is able to use his strength to rip the ball away from other players and his quickness to beat them to the proper position. In four MVC games, he is averaging 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 on the offensive glass.
“Coach Marshall stresses it every day,” he said. “We’ve got to rebound to win games. That’s what I do, is rebounding, so he is on me hard about rebounding.”
WSU led the MVC in rebound margin all four previous seasons under Marshall.
“Coaches are coaches and we, just like players, have strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “The adage is it’s not what you teach, but what you emphasize. We try to teach good basketball, but we really put an emphasis on rebounding and defending.”