Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh scouted Wichita State with its full roster on video. He watched the Shockers on Thursday with three starters out at Koch Arena.
He didn’t see much difference between the two entities. The way he sees it, WSU coach Gregg Marshall doesn’t need to change much.
“When you have a system, and the system is ingrained, and the culture of winning is ingrained in the program, then parts are interchangeable,” said Radebaugh, who spent two seasons as Marshall’s assistant at Winthrop. “Will they be as good over the long run without Carl Hall, in particular — I don’t know? But the system is sound. As long as Gregg is the captain of the ship, they’re going to have a chance to win every game.”
WSU (10-1) is 1-0 with Hall (broken right thumb), Ron Baker (stress fracture in his left foot) and Evan Wessel (broken right pinky) sidelined. It defeated Charleston Southern 65-53 and plays Southern Mississippi (8-3) on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena.
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There is little time or reason to make big changes in the way the Shockers play. They roll out nine healthy players, which is a larger rotation than some schools. The healthy roster may be a more inclined to press and is stronger in the backcourt than the frontcourt, even without Baker and Wessel. Man-to-man defense remains the key. WSU will need its defense to help the offense score by creating fastbreaks.
“That’s basically our M.O.,” Marshall said. “Try to make it hard for them to score and out-rebound them and not look foolish on the offensive end. I don’t think we’re going to be an 85-point per game team in this stage.”
Marshall’s task is evaluate the options within his system and fit them to his personnel. On Thursday, WSU’s press turned the game in its favor in the second half. The Shockers can use their skills to press more, at the risk of fouling and eating into their bench.
“Gut feeling,” he said. “I thought we needed to do it last night to get us going.”
The Shockers did use ball screens more often as a way to maximize the scoring and ball-handling abilities of their guards. With Hall out, WSU will use Ehimen Orukpe and Chadrack Lufile in the post and neither possess Hall’s assortment of post moves and soft touch around the rim.
Southern Mississippi will play 40 minutes of zone, mostly a 1-1-3 matchup that is similar to the “Fresno” defense used by the Shockers. Thursday’s game against Charleston Southern served as good preparation. It played zone for long stretches. WSU, when it passed the ball inside with success, forced Charleston Southern out of the zone or rendered it ineffective in the second half. Zone defenses figure to grow as a strategy against WSU, which is shooting 31.9 percent from three-point range.
Passing the ball inside to Lufile or Orukpe is again critical. Even if they don’t score, the movement can open up shots for other players or draw fouls. Marshall liked the way Cleanthony Early scored in the lane on Thursday. He made 8 of 14 shots and scored 20 points.
“I thought Cle was very aggressive,” Marshall said. “Sitting in, ducking in, calling for the ball. He’s gotten better at it. And he’s so springy.”