Key statistics: The Shockers scored 15 points in the final 17 minutes of the game, allowing a 22-point lead to slip to nine. WSU made six baskets and missed 20 in the second half, shooting 19 of 52 for the game. WSU out-rebounded Loyola 44-28.
How the game turned: Nick Wiggins’ three-pointer started a 14-2 run to end the first half. The Shockers scored five of those points after two turnovers and added four on offensive rebounds.
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In an MVC loaded with new coaches, it’s nice to have Loyola coach Porter Moser provide some history. He played for Creighton and faced the Bradley team that went 16-0 in the MVC in 1985-86. He coached at Illinois State from 2003-2007 and faced the Southern Illinois team that went 17-1 in 2003-04 (and if you want to see what MVC dominantion looks like, look at the SIU teams from 2003-05). Moser says the current Shockers are more well-rounded than either. “(Bradley) was really, really good offensively,” Moser said. “Defense, they were OK. (The Salukis) were just phenomenal defensively, but not that great offensively. This is the best team, because they’re on both ends. Offensively, they’ve got a lot of weapons and defensively they guard you.” On Tuesday’s MVC conference call, Moser said the Shockers force teams to take roughly 40 percent of their shots from three-point range. They do it by forcing them to play faster than they are comfortable and keeping them from moving the ball. Moser wanted his team to play patiently, get the ball inside, and make several passes on each possession. In the first half, the Shockers ruined that plan. “We had six or seven bad possessions in a row and they capitalized and that was the separation,” Moser said. “It was a six-point lead and it went to 19. It just kind of snowballs. We had six or seven (trips) when each guy tried to take it on their own. That’s what they make you do. They speed you up with their pressure. They speed you up because they capitalize on turnovers. They speed you up with the way they make big shots.” Should the Shockers worry about style points against a team ranked No. 263 in the RPI? I doubt it is an issue with voters or selection committee members, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Long stretches of poor play are rare with this team and that record will be reflected on March 16. The Shockers have done an excellent job maintaining focus in games with the outcome decided. Wednesday’s second half should be a rarity. Loyola guard Milton Doyle, a freshman, is the kind of player that provides hope for a stronger MVC in the future. He flashed some of that ability in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points. He appears to be the favorite for MVC Freshman of the Year with averages of 16 points and 4.1 rebounds. He leads the Ramblers in scoring, assists, blocks, turnovers and is tied for the team lead in steals. “He has struggled on the road,” Moser said. “I think he had a better second half. He competed. He tried to do a little too much at times.” WSU committed more turnovers than its opponent twice in its first 19 games. In the past three, the opponent has turned the ball over fewer times than WSU in each.
Next up: Evansville, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)