Key statistics: The Shockers held the Sycamores to 17 baskets while forcing 14 turnovers. Indiana State’s starting backcourt of Brenton Scott (1-8) and Devonte Brown (0-8) combined to score four points and commit seven turnovers. After the Sycamores stayed close with a six-point edge at the foul line in the first half, WSU won that category by three in the second half. Brown averages a team-leading 12.7 points and Scott 11.8. It was Brown’s first scoreless game of the season.
Records: WSU 26-3, 16-1 MVC; ISU 14-15, 10-7
How the game turned: WSU started the second half with a 9-0 run, highlighted by Fred VanVleet’s three-pointer, beating the shot-clock buzzer, and Evan Wessel’s steal and layup. The Shockers led 37-24 and while the Sycamores later cut the lead to one, that burst forced them to fight uphill for 12 minutes.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU out-rebounded the Sycamores 40-33 and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.
Stat that might surprise you: The Sycamores outscored WSU 15-10 on second-chance points despite grabbing six fewer offensive rebounds.
Next up: vs. No. 10 Northern Iowa (27-2, 16-1), 1 p.m., Saturday (ESPN)
▪ Indiana State coach Greg Lansing would like a word with anybody down on Ron Baker’s 1-for-11 shooting performance.
“Ron Baker never has a bad game,” Lansing said. “He played the other end. He defended. He deflects balls. He gets steals. He didn’t score much against us the other time and still had a good game.”
Baker did grab seven rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in 36 minutes. He had two assists and two turnovers. He gets the most credit for being part of the defensive effort on Indiana State’s guards. The Sycamores need to make three-pointers and they went 5 for 15, which isn’t enough volume or accuracy.
Frustrating night for Baker, who also took a bump to the forehead late in the game defending Scott. The Sycamores devote a lot of defensive attention to Baker and it shows.
In two games this season against Indiana State, he is 2 of 17 from the field and 1 of 7 from three-point range with eight points. While Indiana State’s Khristian Smith worked hard to defend him, Baker endured some shots that rolled off the rim.
“It happens,” he said. “Great shooters think about the next shot, next game. That’s all I can do.”
With the focus on Baker, Indiana State left others open. Center Darius Carter rarely saw double teams. Tekele Cotton and Wessel made enough shots to keep the offense afloat.
“Ron was in a little bit of a funk,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He took a bad shot. He missed two free throws. When Ron Baker’s missing two free throws, something’s up. Even the great ones have off nights.”
▪ Baker’s stat line wasn’t the only unlikely component of a 10-point win. The Shockers went 2 for 17 from three-point range, their worst percentage since going 0 for 11 in the opener against New Mexico State.
▪ It might seem as if people should run out of adjectives to describe VanVleet. WSU coach Gregg Marshall had plenty to describe his basket late in the game to give WSU a six-point lead and beat the shot-clock buzzer.
“It’s calm, it’s composure, it’s savvy, it’s moxie, it’s ability,” Marshall said. “Great players can score when they’re guarded well. Indiana State guarded well and we just made a great play.”
▪ Carter returned to strong form after totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds the past three games. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his first-double-double since Jan. 17 at Evansville.
▪ WSU endured one poor stretch that helped the Sycamores get close in the second half. It scored on four straight possessions to go up 45-36 before a stretch of mistakes stopped its momentum. VanVleet’s bad pass turned into a basket for Indiana State’s Tre Bennett. Another turnover followed and Rashard Kelly took a bad shot, allowing the Sycamores to cut the lead to 45-41.
“We had some bad offensive possessions in there,” Marshall said. “They started making plays and quickly it became a ballgame again.”
▪ Marshall joins a select group with his 200th victory at an MVC school — Henry Iba (486), Eddie Hickey (337), Dana Altman (327), Rich Herrin (225), Ralph Miller (220), Maury John (211) and Barry Hinson (207). Of that group, Iba is the only one with a national title. Iba, John and Marshall are the only ones with Final Four appearances.
Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson is coming with 193.