Wichita State’s offensive efficiency hit another high mark against a team that traditionally gives the Shockers fits with scrappy defense.
Evansville didn’t offer much resistance on Wednesday in an 86-74 loss at Koch Arena. WSU remained in a tie with Creighton for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference and won its eighth striaght game with center Garrett Stutz back from a one-game absence due to a back injury.
WSU (18-3, 9-1 MVC) shot a season-high 63 percent from the field, fueled by Stutz’s mismatches in the lane and fast breaks created by missed shots and speedy Shocker guards. Stutz scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Evansville (10-10, 5-5) tried to guard him with two freshmen.
“It was great, great to have the big fella back,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He is so important to what we do.”
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Stutz scored 29 points in the first meeting with the Aces and WSU went right back to that plan. He scored 10 of WSU’s first 19 points. He finished the first half with 15 points, most coming on dunks and layups. When he wasn’t open immediately, he moved quicky to counter Evansville’s double teams.
“Coach really made it an emphasis to get the ball inside, especially in the first half,” Stutz said.
The Shockers also made four three-pointers in the first half to build a 51-34 lead. It all added up to an offensive surge that overwhelmed the Aces.
“They spread you out and they’re so aggressive,” Aces coach Marty Simmons said. “They just out-executed us. We’re not one to give up a lot of layups. We gave up a lot of layups.”
In the first half, WSU made 19 of 26 shots, feasting on fast breaks and open shots that came early in possessions. They ran after missed shots by Evansville and rarely allowed the Aces to set their defense.
“That’s huge,” Marshall said. “When you score 51 points, you’re not doing it all on sets plays and motion offense. We were able to pound it in on some of our quicks. Our guys were finding each other.”
WSU’s defense set up many of those easy baskets. Demetric Williams and Toure Murry did most of the defensive work on guard Colt Ryan, who entered the game averaging 21.2 points. He scored 17, making 6 of 18 shots. He shot a mere two free throws, around six fewer than his average.
Marshall said he knew the game was over when Murry forced Ryan into an airball late in the game. The Shockes led 80-66 when Ryan shot from the top of the key. Murry got a hand right at the ball, causing Ryan to adjust and come up short.
“Colt Ryan is a tough player, and he knows how to use screens,” Murry said. “I just try to maneuver through them, right behind him, and contest without fouling.”