▪ Key statistics: Illinois State blocked eight shots in the first meeting and one on Saturday. That summarizes the difference in how effectively and aggressively the Shockers attacked and how poorly the Redbirds defended.
Without the Redbirds in the way, the Shockers made 19 of 26 shots in the second half and that’s how a team puts an historic beating on a rival.
Illinois State made 4 of 22 three-pointers, many of them ugly misses. That 18.2-percent rate is its second-lowest accuracy of the season.
▪ How the game turned: Wichita State ended the first half on a 17-4 run and started the second half on a 22-2 run. Conner Frankamp scored 13 of his career-high 18 points during those runs.
Playing at home changes a lot, as this series showed. Home teams looked sharp and confident. Road teams played out of character.
We’ll probably get a third meeting in St. Louis. Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh may or may not be healthy, and we’ll see who can most closely duplicate the effort at home.
As of Saturday, WSU’s depth and rate of improvement seems to be a convincing edge.
▪ Records: ISU 19-5, 11-1 MVC: WSU 21-4, 11-1
▪ Rotation watch: We’ve seen many game-changing defensive efforts by Shockers such as Ben Smith on Doug McDermott, Tekele Cotton on Tray Woodall and Fred VanVleet/Ron Baker on just about everybody in recent seasons.
Add Zach Brown on Paris Lee to that list.
In the first meeting, Lee didn’t shoot well, but he did everything else and controlled the game at both ends. On Saturday, he graded out as a non-factor with four points on 2-of-11 shooting, three assists, two turnovers and no steals. It was, according to kenpom.com, by far his worst offensive game of the season.
Credit Brown, who used his height to bother Lee’s shots and his footwork to keep Lee out of the lane, where he can get shots for teammates.
“There’s been times this year where we’ve had trouble playing against real, real real good guards who can score,” Brown said. “We thought that length would bother him.”
Lee, a lefty who likes to drive right and come back to his strong hand, missed his first two shots and never got going. Brown also made it difficult for him to get the ball back, which seemed to slow the Redbirds offense.
“He’s always going to try to get to his sweet spot, so you always shadow him like that,” Brown said. “You make sure all of his shots are contested.”
Lee’s teammates didn’t do him any favors. It’s hard to run an offense when teammates are bricking away and the Redbirds missed badly on several shots. Phil Fayne’s foul trouble hurt. The Redbirds desperately missed McIntosh, out with a knee injury, on both ends. McIntosh turns the ball over some, but is a threat with the ball.
That is a product of WSU’s defense, which did a good job forcing the Redbirds into quick shots and uncomfortable positions. That started defending Lee and Brown got some help. Early in WSU’s first-half run, Landry Shamet blocked a runner by Lee and Daishon Smith guarded him.
One of the things Saturday may have revealed is that the Redbirds depend on Lee to run the offense much more than the Shockers depend on any one player.
The ball ended up in the hands of sophomore guard Keyshawn Evans frequently late in the first half and he struggled while Lee watched away from the ball. Evans missed 4 of 5 shots in the first half, two of those in the final seven minutes of the half, with a turnover.
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: Shaq Morris is engaged in the most consistently productive stretch of his career.
Over the past six games, he averages 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. He is 24 of 50 from the field.
Rebounding is a function of playing time and hard work. You can fake rebounding a little, but not a lot. Morris has all three of his career double-figure rebound games since Jan. 17, which tells us he is healthy and hustling.
The only similar stretch for Morris came last season, when he averaged 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds over a seven-game stretch.
In these six games, Morris played 20 or more minutes four times. He didn’t commit a foul on Saturday and committed three or more once.
When Morris plays those minutes, free of foul worries, he is quite helpful.
▪ Bad: The Shockers committed eight first-half turnovers.
▪ Numbers guy says: The Shockers lost by 14 on the road and won by 41 at home. That 55-point swing is its largest in MVC play. The 1972-73 Shockers lost by seven at West Texas State and won by 42.
Wichita State’s largest margin in MVC games:
WSU 105, North Texas State 58
WSU 85, Southern Illinois 42
WSU 78, Missouri State 35
WSU 103, West Texas State 61
WSU 87, Southern Illinois 45
WSU 86, Illinois State 45
WSU 110, North Texas 69
WSU 111, North Texas 70
▪ On and on: WSU’s RPI rank rose to No. 52. Illinois State is No. 33. The Valley uses the RPI at the RPI Report to break ties in the standings for tournament seeding. … WSU made 56.6 percent of its shots. The Redbirds hadn’t allowed a team to shoot better than 47 percent this season and had held 13 opponents under 40 percent. … The 41-point margin is Illinois State’s worst loss since a 51-point defeat (107-56) to No. 10 Oklahoma in 1987.
▪ Next up: vs. Missouri State (15-10, 6-6), 8 p.m. Thursday (CBS Sports Network) — The Bears lost 74-66 at Evansville on Saturday, their third loss in four games.
MSU’s previous three games went to overtime — losses to Drake and Southern Illinois and a win over Loyola.
Evansville made one three-pointer and shot 55.8 percent against the Bears to end a nine-game win streak.
Bears junior Alize Johnson averages 16.2 points and 12.2 rebounds in MVC play. Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward, has earned MVC newomer of the week five times and player of the week twice.