Wichita State’s basketball players are more concerned with their minds than their mechanics.
They watched Tuesday’s loss to Indiana State in Thursday’s video session. They saw missed shots, 43 in all. They also saw Indiana State get most of the loose balls and win the hustle plays.
Those are the moments that hurt. No. 15 WSU knows it can win when it shoots poorly. It knows it can win when one or two players are a step slow. But it can’t when most of the roster plays passively.
“There a lot of things we can fix,” guard Tekele Cotton said. “Normally, we’re tough. Normally, we play defense and normally we rebound. This game, for some reason, we really didn’t come out with the same approach.”
WSU (19-3, 8-2 Missouri Valley Conference) plays at Northern Iowa (11-11, 4-6) on Saturday likely needing a win to stay even with Creighton atop the MVC standings and remain in the national rankings. The 68-55 loss to Indiana State provided a reminder how the Shockers got to the top.
“We’ve got to play tougher,” WSU junior Nick Wiggins said. “I don’t think we came out aggressive. They had more energy than us, and that’s not usually the case.”
WSU coach Gregg Marshall didn’t let the offense off the hook after the Shockers shot a season-low 27.1 percent from the field. They made one basket in the final 8:57, a layup in the final 30 seconds.
Guard Malcolm Armstead said he had trouble sleeping after a game in which he missed 9 of 11 shots and felt he rushed too many against Indiana State’s changing defenses. The Sycamores held center Carl Hall to two shots and didn’t allow Wiggins, WSU’s best outside threat, to attempt a three-pointer.
“We didn’t execute at all (against the zone defense),” Marshall said. “When we got it in (the lane), we didn’t finish. There were other times we should have gotten it in and we didn’t.”
Marshall counted four times when Hall worked open in the lane and didn’t get the ball. The Sycamores devoted two, sometimes three, players to keep the ball away from Hall. Even when he grabbed offensive rebounds, he found himself surrounded. He scored two points, on the two free throws he attempted.
“Normally, when he gets those offensive rebounds is when he gets a lot of his shots,” Marshall said. “They were doubling and sagging in on him so much, he basically became less assertive, which is not the answer.”
WSU routed Northern Iowa 66-41 in the conference opener at Koch Arena. But the Panthers are 9-2 at home, where their offense is much more effective. UNI averages 71.2 points in home games, 10 more than on the road. It is shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from three-point range at home, roughly 10 percentage points better in each than on the road.
“It’s going to be a great environment,” Marshall said. “They’re very well-coached. And they seem to make more shots at home.”