▪ Key statistics: Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan made 2 of 11 shots. Klint Carlson made 1 of 15. Jordan Ashton went 0 for 4. The Panthers needed much better from those starters.
▪ How the game turned: Wichita State burned to a 17-6 lead by forcing some uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns and getting the ball to Shaq Morris against single coverage. Conner Frankamp and Markis McDuffie both lost defenders for layups and it’s rare to see that level of disarray from the Panthers.
The Shockers made 5 of their first 6 shots. They shot 38.2 percent from the field for the remainder of the game.
▪ Records: UNI 14-13, 9-7 MVC; WSU 25-4, 14-1
▪ Rotation watch: If Darral Willis wants his minutes back, Saturday is a good way to start.
Willis’ playing time slipped in recent weeks, largely because of defense. It’s hard to play Willis and Morris together because it’s not ideal to have either guarind perimeter players. Morris is playing well, as is Rauno Nurger, which takes away minutes in the post. Rashard Kelly and McDuffie are top defenders who play power forward.
On Saturday, Willis played 19 minutes, his most since Jan. 14 at Illinois State, and recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double this season.
“He looked very comfortable out there,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Defensively, he was working hard. That's been his big bugaboo - execution and defense — and he was very good at that today.”
Willis said assistant coach Greg Heiar is in his ear to keep working and believe that more chances will come. It isn’t unusual for newcomers to struggle, even after periods of success. Junior college transers such as Cleanthony Early and Joe Ragland experienced rough spots during their adjustment to Marshall’s demands for defense.
“His advice was to stay the course and trust the process,” Willis said. “Hopefully, I can get back my minutes from earlier in the season and hopefully I can keep providing these double-doubles for the team.”
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: Frankamp handed out five assists, his high since had seven against LSU. He averages 2.8 assists a game, below the NCAA minimum of 3.0 to be ranked among conference or national leaders for assist-to-turnover ratio.
He is six assists short of averaging 3.0 a game. Frankamp’s assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.2. A 4.2 ratio, by a player who qualifies, would rank fourth nationally and first in the MVC.
▪ The Shockers have a fair chance to return to the AP top 25 on Monday.
No. 21 South Carolina went 0-2 and is 1-3 in its past four. The Gamecocks seem likely to slip. No. 20 Creighton (1-1) and No. 23 Maryland (1-1) also lost games.
WSU had 87 points on Monday, 35 behind No. 25 Notre Dame.
We’ll see if voters are convinced by a 10-game win streak or put off by the competition.
▪ Bad: Rauno Nurger missed a lefty hook shot early in the game. That never happens. The Shockers, however, recovered.
▪ Numbers guy says: UNI’s worst offensive games came against WSU, North Carolina, Xavier and Iowa. The Shockers held them to 0.71 points per possession, third-lowest this season. UNI’s effective field goal percentage of 31.4 was its lowest.
▪ On and on: The Shockers swept UNI for the third time in UNI’s 19 seasons in the MVC. The 29-point margin is the largest for either team in the series, tied at 28-all.
▪ Next up: vs. Evansville (14-15, 5-11 MVC), 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox Kansas)
The Purple Aces had won four in a row before Saturday’s 84-72 loss to Bradley. The Braves made 11 of 21 three-pointers.