Finding time to rest
February is near and March looms. Coaches bent on pushing their players and wringing maximum effort out of them are now trying to save their legs for maximum efficiency.
At No. 12 Wichita State, practices are often 90 minutes or so and coach Gregg Marshall’s goal is work hard and smart, not spend hours in the gym. He watches his veterans and sometimes the reserves will practice after the starters are done. He didn’t feel the need to practice on Saturday, before Sunday’s afternoon game against Drake, because veterans such as Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton are so consistent and know what needs to be accomplished.
“We’re not practicing for long, but when we do practice, we’re practicing to achieve those goals,” he said. “(Saturday) we didn’t practice at all. I knew it was an early start. I knew we had their attention by the way we played up there.”
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The story is similar at other schools, where coaches want to save the best minutes for games and avoid turning sore bodies into injured bodies. Indiana State coach Greg Lansing heard it from former coach Royce Waltman, who heard it from former Indiana coach Bob Knight. Sometimes, Lansing said, you have to sit an eager player down for his own good during scrimmages. On Sunday, Lansing rested Devonte Brown and Khristian Smith to save their wind for Tuesday’s game guarding D.J. Balentine at Evansville.
“We talk about it a lot,” Lansing said. “You really have to monitor … your top guys, your high-minute guys and try to rest them. Get a lot of mental days.”
Freshmen sometimes lose their energy around this time as the grind of a longer, more demanding season, takes hold. MVC teams are playing into their 21st game now, close to an entire season for some high schools. Throw in travel, increased academic demands and more time in the weight room and it is easy for rookies to wear down. Drake coach Ray Giacoletti starts freshmen Reed Timmer and C.J. Rivers has four more on his roster.
“You’ve just got to be able to fight through it,” Giacoletti said. “They’re getting a great opportunity to play so many minutes during your freshman season. We’ve got to find ways to continue to play your best basketball in February and get better.”
▪ Northern Iowa moved up to No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, its highest spot. The Panthers play No. 12 WSU on Saturday, marking the first time a ranked UNI team meets a ranked opponent.
UNI’s previous high in the AP poll came in 2010 at No. 19.
▪ Indiana State recovered from a miserable non-conference performance to start 5-0 in MVC play. Lansing credits Brown with taking control of the team when transfer point guard Tre Bennett didn’t adjust as quickly as hoped.
“He works like crazy at it,” Lansing said. “He watches a lot of tape. He shoots extra every day. I think he’s the best defender in the league.”
▪ WSU’s Darius Carter leads the MVC in combined points-rebound-assists per 40 minutes played this season. Carter averages 22.6 points, 11 rebounds and 0.9 assists, totaling 34.5 PAR. UNI’s Seth Tuttle is second at 33.8. Baker ranks seventh at 27.6.
The MVC — A game with two ranked teams puts the MVC in the spotlight on Saturday. For one day, at least, forget about the weak teams at the bottom of the conference and enjoy a nationally relevant game and the prospect of another one on Feb. 28 at Koch Arena.
Bradley — The Braves are headed for a fifth consecutive losing MVC record and university president Joanne Glasser is retiring in May. In Peoria, media members read this as a sign the tenures of coach Geno Ford (44-76 in three-plus seasons) and athletic director Michael Cross are in danger.
Get to know an MVC neighbor
Q: Which current member had a player lead the MVC in scoring the most times since 1956?
A: Bradley owns 13 scoring leaders — Chet Walker (1961, ’62), Joe Allen (1967, ’68), Mike Davis (1976), Hersey Hawkins (1987, ’88), Anthony Manuel (1989), Curtis Stuckey (1990, ’91), Phillip Gilbert (2003) and Andrew Warren (2011).
One to watch
No. 18 Northern Iowa (18-2, 7-1) at Southern Illinois (9-12, 2-6), 7 p.m. Wednesday — It would be just like SIU coach Barry Hinson to take the edge of Saturday’s Wichita State-UNI showdown with an upset. His Salukis usually get better as February approaches and they have won their past two home games.