Key statistics: The Shockers went 31 of 41 from the foul line, taking advantage of 39 fouls called on the Buccaneers. WSU out-rebounded them 48-29.
How the game turned: Free throws and Eric Hamilton. WSU led 26-21 when Landry Shamet made two free throws. Hamilton followed with two more and then converted a three-point play — off a pretty no-look pass by John Robert Simon — for a 33-22 lead. WSU’s edge dipped briefly before the Shockers ended the half on a 9-4 run to lead 42-30.
Records: Charleston Southern 0-1, Wichita State 1-0
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Stat that might surprise you: Sixty-six fouls. Even if you knew this was coming, the constant interruptions by whistles grated on the nerves and ruined the game’s flow. Let’s hope everybody adjusts soon and the result is a better game.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: Sixty-six fouls. We were warned.
Freshman watch: A strong debut for the class of 2019. Shamet continues to stand out by not standing out. He’s played 51 minutes in the exhibition and opener and committed zero turnovers with 23 points (6-of-14 shooting), four assists and nine rebounds. Shamet hasn’t looked like a freshman at any moment I’ve seen. Hamilton scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He’s an energy guy with a jump shot. Ty Taylor scored 10 points.
As we’ve been told, this bunch can play.
Now we get to see how they do away from the comforts of Koch Arena.
Why they’re All-Americans: Ron Baker steadied the Shockers when needed, playing point in place of injured Fred VanVleet, to score 15 points and hand out three assists with no turnovers.
Rotation watch: WSU coach Gregg Marshall caught Hamilton missing some defensive assignments, not atypical for a freshman. Getting to the right place at the right time seems to be Hamilton’s challenge. If he can continue to learn the system, his blend of all-out rebounding and shooting will be hard to keep off the floor. Senior center Bush Wamukota is off to a slow start offensively, although he has grabbed 12 rebounds in WSU’s two games. His four turnovers, however, negate some of that hard work.
▪ Simon knew Friday presented a situation where Marshall might need him. In truth, it shouldn’t be surprising. Marshall, even last season, wasn’t reluctant to call on Simon to help the Shockers through foul trouble.
On Friday, foul trouble and VanVleet’s injury opened minutes for Simon, a walk-on from Oklahoma City. He responded with four points, three assists, a steal and no turnovers in eight minutes.
“I feel like I can play at this level if I need to,” Simon said. “A lot of this has been confidence from my teammates and coaches, telling me just to be confident and play. I play against two All-Americans, two of the best guards in the country, every single day. I know if I can compete with them, I can compete with anybody we play.”
Simon did more than merely manage the game and avoid mistakes. He started an early WSU run with a steal and layup that gave the crowd something to focus on other than fouls. He found Hamilton alone under the basket from the top of the key after two defenders stuck with a Shocker at the three-point line.
“We ran a ball-screen … I noticed both guys took the guy at the three-point line and I knew Eric was rolling and there was no one down there to guard him,” Simon said.
Later, he connected with cutting Baker on a well-timed pass that resulted in a layup.
“I’ve played with Ron for two years in practice every day,” Simon said. “You get a feel of what guys are going to do. I could see him starting to cut and the guy was behind him, so it was just one of those where I dumped it off to him and I knew he’d make a play.”
Around the MVC: Any Bradley victory should be celebrated. The Braves defeated Ball State, picked sixth in the MAC’s West Division, 54-53 after starting four freshmen and a sophomore. Somewhere, Bonzi Wells weeps.
Illinois State lost at San Diego State 71-60. In the night’s most disappointing loss, Indiana State dropped a home game to IUPUI 72-70. IUPUI is picked sixth in the Summit League.
Next up: at Tulsa, 7 p.m. Saturday (Cox Kansas).
Tulsa plays Central Arkansas at 4 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3).
There is no doubt this is a dangerous game for the Shockers, made even more so by VanVleet’s hamstring/ankle problems. It’s good news that his hamstring felt good enough to play on Friday. It’s bad news he made it only three minutes before suffering a minor ankle sprain.
Tulsa will approach this game as a season-defining opportunity. The Hurricane returns five starters from last season and the roster totals nine seniors.