When Jamillah Bonner yells, the booming voice of the Wichita State senior guard can usually be heard.
When Bonner shouted at teammate Michaela Dapprich in Friday afternoon’s contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, she was drowned out by the screams of 10,087 schoolchildren who took a field trip to Koch Arena to watch the Shockers win 55-26 and improve to 5-2.
Not even a sloppy game could keep coach Jody Adams from smiling about the experience of WSU’s fifth-largest crowd.
“It was awesome,” said Adams, ears still ringing from the constant roar. “Just addressing the kids before the game, telling them we have one house rule and it was to be crazy loud. After I said it, I couldn’t get another word in.”
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But when this team goes back and watches this game on tape, without the noise, Wichita State will see a disappointing effort following its best stretch of the season in the Virgin Islands.
Adams shouldered the blame for starting WSU out in a passive defense, which effectively muzzled the team’s greatest strength. And it didn’t help no one could make a jump shot and few were finishing near the rim. The first 15 minutes were as hesitant as WSU has looked all season.
Still, there is no excuse for a team with NCAA aspirations to be losing 12-9 midway through the first half to a team that had previously lost to a NAIA Division II team.
“What I’d like to see, no matter whether shots are falling, is that we continue to play with the same sense of urgency without it becoming halftime before we change who we are and what we’re doing,” Adams said.
Nearly 90 percent of Wichita State’s offensive output came from Alex Harden (20 points, 11 rebounds, four steals), Bonner (16 points, nine rebounds), and Dapprich (12 points, five rebounds).
The other seven Shockers combined to score seven points on 2-of-24 shooting.
“We’re a great team when we’re disciplined and we reverse the ball,” Adams said. “We’re a great team because of our tempo, and I thought our shots in the first half were hesitant. Our footwork wasn’t good because our tempo wasn’t good. I think that caused us not to be in rhythm.”
By halftime, when a late burst afforded WSU a 27-16 lead, Adams had seen enough. She was tired of seeing her collection of athletes sitting back and playing passively. Starting the second half, WSU would be unleashed and green-lighted to play its favorite kind of defense.
Pine Bluff made a quarter of its shots (11 of 43) and had 22 turnovers.
“Flying around is what we do,” Harden said. “But it was shocking and a little disappointing (about the first half). The big thing is we know how to rally back from it. Being down is when you find out who the true team is, and we were able to change it.”
There are bigger games upcoming, including at home against Kansas State next Friday and a road trip to Tennessee the following week, and the sloppy play against Pine Bluff will likely be swept away, chalked up as an unremarkable victory.
But the players will still take something away from this game.
“All those little kids,” Bonner said. “It got really exciting out there. The good plays we had and they started screaming loud, and that kind of got me really hype and made me keep pushing.”
ARK.-PINE BLUFF (2-5): Campbell 3-5 0-0 6, Victorian 1-4 0-0 2, Richardson 1-7 0-0 2, Wormley 1-2 0-0 2, Goodman 2-12 2-2 6, Ham 0-4 2-2 2, Walker 3-6 0-0 6, Munir 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 11-43 4-4 26.
WICHITA ST. (5-2): Jacobs 1-3 3-4 5, Mi. Dapprich 5-9 1-2 12, Bonner 5-12 4-5 16, White 0-2 0-0 0, Harden 8-13 4-4 20, Stovall 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 0-2 0-0 0, Decker 1-8 0-0 2, Chapel 0-6 0-0 0, Mo. Dapprich 0-3 0-2 0. Totals 20-58 12-17 55.
Halftime – Wichita St. 27-16. Three-point shooting – UAPB 0-8 (Ham 0-1, Richardson 0-2, Goodman 0-5), Wichita St. 3-13 (Bonner 2-4, Mi. Dapprich 1-3, Chapel 0-1, Decker 0-5). Rebounds – UAPB 33 (Wormley 8), Wichita St. 40 (Harden 11). Assists – UAPB 6 (Wormley, Goodman 2), Wichita St. 12 (Bonner 3). Fouls – UAPB 20, Wichita St. 14. A – 10,087.