▪ Key statistics: The Shockers made 13 of 27 three-pointers and are shooting 38.8 percent for the season.
Markis McDuffie (8 of 19), Zach Brown (11 of 27), Austin Reaves (10 of 19), Daishon Smith (10 of 21) and Rauno Nurger (5 of 10) are shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc with 10 or more attempts.
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▪ How the game turned: The Rams rallied from eight points down. Two three-pointers revved up the crowd and tied it 57-all.
WSU’s Shaq Morris missed a three.
Then Austin Reaves plucked the miss out of the air and rescued the possession. He went to the corner, got the ball back, and made a three to give WSU the lead for good.
▪ Records: WSU 7-2, CSU 6-2
▪ Rotation watch: Brown, a junior forward, came off the bench for the second straight game after starting seven previous and 31 of 35 in 2015-16.
His drives to the basket cracked the hard shell the Rams threw up around lane for much of the first half. When WSU’s offense went stagnant, Brown helped show the way to some points.
“He did what he does best — he drove it straight-line, made a couple of threes,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He got on a loose ball early, dove on it and kind of took it from a guy. That set the tone. I knew he was ready.”
Brown scored 16 points, matching his career high, by making 5 of 9 shots and 4 of 6 free throws. He grabbed three rebounds and two steals.
“It’s always important to get to the rim,” he said. “Getting to the rim contracts the defense and gives you an opportunity to get easier buckets. It did open up a lot of things.”
Drives also draw fouls. The Shockers shot from the outside a lot in the first half, one reason for a 10-4 foul disparity. Rams center Emmanauel Omogbo had one first-half foul, leaving him free to play as aggressively as he wanted. He drew four in the second half.
Brown and McDuffie teamed up to guard Omogbo, who entered the game averaging 13.9 points and 11.7 rebounds. He finished Saturday with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and 14 rebounds in 34 minutes.
The Shockers showed him a lot of respect, often sending guards to harass him when he posted up.
Brown started the season strong, averaging 11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the first four games. In the Bahamas, he slumped. He scored 10 points in three games and made 4 of 15 shots. On Saturday, he returned to his earlier form.
“Now that this one is over, I’m not even thinking about this one,” he said. “The main focus is winning.”
Brown’s foul shooting is also starting to recover. He went 1 for 9 in a four-game stretch. In the past two, he is 6 of 9. He said he shoots at least 50 free throws after practice. If he doesn’t make 45, he starts over. He is also visiting Koch Arena for a mid-day shooting session.
“It was something I used to do, but lost track and then it ended up biting me,” he said. “I had to go back to what got you to where you are now.”
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: WSU guard Landry Shamet made three threes, each one to choke off a Rams burst.
In the first half, CSU tied it 9-all. Shamet made a three.
Later in the half, CSU took its biggest lead at 21-17. Shamet made a three.
In the second half, the Rams cut WSU’s lead to 46-45 after a three-point play.
Shamet, again, made a three.
We’re all watching to see who performs in those types of situations for the Shockers. In the Bahamas, it wasn’t clear who the Shockers could go to when things turned dicey.
▪ Bad: Darral Willis (four turnovers) and Smith (three) showed signs of letting speed of the game and Colorado State’s defense rattle them. Willis, in particular, threw two bad passes in the first half that earned him a chat with Marshall and a seat on the bench.
Smith righted himself and played well in the second half. Willis played 16 quiet minutes.
▪ Numbers guy says: The Rams are No. 114 in the warrennolan.com RPI rankings and No. 130 in the kenpom.com rankings.
Check back on Feb. 1 to see the Rams moved up. The Shockers need a quality road win.
WSU is in a similar position to last season, when it returned from an 0-3 trip to Orlando with UNLV, Utah and Seton Hall on the schedule. It won two of those games. This season, WSU went 1-2 in the Bahamas and needs to juice its NCAA at-large resume against Colorado State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
▪ On and on: Reaves returned from a dislocated shoulder to play 10 minutes and score five points. … Since making 21 of 36 fouls shots against LSU and Louisville, the Shockers are 51 of 67 from the line (76.1 percent). … The 15-point margin is WSU’s smallest in a victory this season and the smallest in a regular-season game since a 78-65 win at Evansville on Jan. 31. The Shockers own 21 straight regular-season victories by 10 or more points, dating to a 67-64 win over Evansville on Jan. 6.
▪ Next up: Saint Louis (2-5), 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox 122)
The Billikens, under new coach Travis Ford, boast wins over Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois. Its losses are to Ball State, BYU, Alabama, Samford (not Stanford) and Kansas State (84-53 on Saturday).
Ford is recruiting well, so better times may be coming. This season, the Bills are dismal.