Wichita State, no doubt, has mind and body issues it needs to solve after a third straight loss on Tuesday, this one to last-place Southern Illinois.
We’ll deal with the physical aspect of playing the game here and leave WSU’s mind-set for the Shockers to explain. If you could pick one issue that is dragging WSU down, it would be the disappearance of transition baskets. And it’s actually two issues — when the Shockers don’t get stops, they can’t run. Almost every team needs easy baskets and the Shockers need them more than most. They lack high-percentage half-court options.
“We have to find a way to get easy buckets,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “We can’t get out in transition when they’re at the free-throw line and if they’re making shots.”
-- Against SIU, the Shockers totaled eight fast-break points. SIU shot 17 free throws in the second half. WSU recorded a season-low one steal — one — in the game. Turnovers again played a role. In a low-possession game, WSU turned it over 14 times, eight more than SIU.
-- At Northern Iowa, WSU scored two fast-break points. Same with the loss at home to Indiana State.
“We need to execute on all cylinders,” guard Tekele Cotton said. “Transition, sets, everything. We’ve got to get better.”
It seems so long ago that Bradley coach Geno Ford, after losing to WSU, talked about its ability to bury teams with big runs. Those runs depend on easy baskets. Against SIU, the Shockers rallied late in the game with those baskets. After WSU forced a guarded jumper to miss, Malcolm Armstead found Cotton before the defense got set for a layup to cut SIU’s lead to 57-52. Williams turned another SIU miss into a runner in the lane. WSU grabbed a 60-58 lead when Cleanthony Early beat the defense downcourt and converted a three-point play.
Whatever WSU’s problems, a few more easy baskets will go a long way toward helping.
MOTOR CITY MISSION
Unless you attended the University of Wichita with Ev Wessel or Joe Stevens, you probably don’t remember Missouri Valley Conference battles with Detroit. That’s right, Detroit was an MVC member, from 1949-56.
The Shockers will meet Detroit on Feb. 23 at Koch Arena in the final BracketBusters matchup. The teams last played in 1982.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall appreciates what BracketBusters did for his program (and Winthrop). Games with George Mason, VCU, Utah State and Davidson helped make Shocker basketball over the past 10 seasons. In BracketBusters’ current state, lacking many of the prominent schools from past seasons, he is fine with its demise.
“It served its purpose,” he said. “We had some good home-and-home series that are very difficult to get people to agree on unless it’s an arranged situation.”
Detroit is 15-8 with an RPI ranked No. 68. While top-100 opponents are valuable, a win won’t add tremendous value to WSU’s NCAA resume. Detroit is 1-5 against the top 100, with its win over No. 52 Akron. Losses include St. John’s, Miami (Fla.), Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
The Shockers will return the game to Detroit in a future season.
THIS WEEK IN SHOCKER HISTORY
Wichita State celebrated its 100th anniversary season with Paul Miller scoring 30 points in a 71-63 double-overtime win over Southern Illinois on Feb. 4, 2006. The Koch Arena crowd watched Miller make 11 of 17 shots, a crowd that included Shocker all-time team members Xavier McDaniel, Dave Stallworth, Cleo Littleton and Cliff Levingston. Antoine Carr, the fifth member of the team as selected by fan voting, could not attend. Miller scored six straight points in the second OT to subdue the Salukis.