Darius Carter fouled too much in his first six games, not for reasons typically attached to foul problems. He didn’t play recklessly or too aggressively.
He didn’t play aggressively enough, and ended up recklessly drawing whistles. As Wichita State’s lone experienced big man, he knew the Shockers needed him in the game. He discovered a player can’t avoid fouls by trying to avoid fouls.
“Everything, defensively, I was a step behind,” Carter said. “Because I was thinking not to foul. I couldn’t do that. I talked to my dad, I talked to the coaches, telling them that was in my mind and I wasn’t being aggressive.”
Carter, a 6-foot-7 senior, played his best game of the season Tuesday by denting Seton Hall’s front line for 16 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes. Those numbers represent season highs. Carter had not played more than 23 minutes in WSU’s previous six games, in part because fouls tied him to the bench.
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“I think he was behind the play, defensively, and that’s where he was getting a lot of his fouls,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He was getting some silly fouls, going over the back and being too aggressive, sometimes, when he missed a shot and trying to retrieve the rebound. I’m just glad he’s been able to play.”
The 11th-ranked Shockers (6-1) play at Detroit (6-3) on Saturday and they will count on another strong effort from Carter. He is averaging 11.4 points and making 55.6 percent of shots and showing the increased range and versatility promised after the off-season. His 12-foot baseline jumper is a new weapon and he is getting better position in the lane to score on a short jump hook that he softly places over a defender’s arms.
He made 8 of 12 shots against Seton Hall and in the past five games is shooting 62.5 percent (25 of 40) from the field. When Carter plays significant minutes, the offense works more smoothly because he offers an inside scoring threat that forces defenses to adjust. His presence takes pressure off the guards, who enjoy more open shots when Carter is on the court.
“When he gets the ball on the block, it’s either a foul or points, usually,” WSU junior Ron Baker said. “You can throw it in there and there’s a lot of things that can happen. Either they’ve got to help, and we can kick it and reverse the ball. Or he can make a move one-on-one and that’s the (isolation) we’re looking to get.”
Carter averaged 16.5 minutes in the first six games, down almost two minutes from his junior season. He played 12 against New Mexico State and, most painfully, 17 against Utah. Without him, WSU’s offense struggled to score against the bigger Utes in a 69-68 overtime loss. Playing 31 minutes against Seton Hall came as a relief.
“I finally stopped fouling,” he said. “I’ve been working during practice, trying to stay in as much as possible, because I know I haven’t been playing much, to get my wind right and stay in condition.”
Carter picked up unnecessary fouls by moving a half-step slow when defending ball screens, in an attempt to avoid fouls, or jumping over the back of an opponent for a rebound. He solved those issues against Seton Hall.
“I just played like I always play, play hard and smarter,” he said. “When I wasn’t playing as aggressive, I was not hedging (on screens) as hard and the man would get in my body, and (Tuesday) I just didn’t worry about that.”
Detroit won’t challenge the Shockers with as much height as Utah or Seton Hall. None of its expected starters are taller than 6-6, although the addition of junior Youssoupha Kane might change that outlook. Kane, a 6-9 transfer from Western Nebraska Community College, becomes eligible Saturday. The Titans force 17.2 turnovers and ranked 23rd nationally with an average of 9.4 steals. Their turnover margin of plus-5.4 ranks 13th.
“They trap ball screens,” Marshall said. “They’re aggressive and athletic.”
No. 11 Wichita State at Detroit
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Calihan Hall, Detroit
Records: WSU 6-1, UD 6-3
Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
No. 11 Wichita State at Detroit
Juwan Howard Jr.
Wichita State: Cotton continues to play with the middle finger on his shooting hand wrapped after he jammed it in practice in mid-November. After sitting out against Newman on Nov. 23 and limiting his practice time before playing Tulsa on Nov. 29, he is back to full duty. Since the injury, he has made 17 of 37 shots (45.9 percent). “I just ask him if he can go, and I don’t ever beg him to go,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I don’t have a problem with him missing at this point, either, because I know what type effort we’re going to get from him when the ball is tossed.” … The Shockers made 13 of 23 free throws against Seton Hall on Tuesday, dropping their season percentage to 64.7. VanVleet went 8 for 8 from the line to raise his season percentage from 66.7 to 74.3. … WSU defeated Detroit 94-79 in 2013 at Koch Arena with Malcolm Armstead scoring 20 points in a BracketBusters Series game. Saturday’s game completes WSU’s obligation to the now-defunct BracketBusters. The Shockers lead the series with Detroit 13-7. The schools last played in Detroit in 1981. They met as Missouri Valley Conference members from 1950-57.
Detroit: Howard is the son of former Michigan star and NBA player Juwan Howard. He is shooting 35.1 percent (13 of 37) from three-point range and has 18 assists and 17 turnovers. He is 37 of 42 from the foul line (88.1 percent) and has made more free throws than any Shocker has attempted. … The Titans are shooting 75.3 percent from the line, 25th nationally … C Youssoupha Kane (6-9) and G-F Chris Jenkins (6-7) are eligible on Saturday. Kane averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds last season at Western Nebraska Community College. Jenkins redshirted at Colorado in 2012-13 before transferring to Detroit. … Freshman G Paris Bass averages 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds with a team-leading 17 steals. … Bowling Green, coached by former WSU assistant Chris Jans, defeated Detroit 64-63 on a last-second shot Nov. 30.