Key statistics: WSU made 11 of 24 three-pointers (eight Shockers made at least one) and its bench scored 38 points, most against an NCAA Division I opponent this season. The previous high was 29 against Saint Louis.
Records: WSU 9-1, LMU 3-7
How the game turned: Tekele Cotton scored eight of WSU’s first 11 points and started the onslaught of outside shooting to build an 11-4 lead. Ron Baker’s three made it 14-4 and Bush Wamukota scored five points on follow shots for a 19-4 lead. The Lions were overmatched in the lane and couldn’t recover to stop WSU’s outside shooters.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: No WSU starter played more than six minutes in the second half.
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Stat that might surprise you: The Shockers made 17 of 24 foul shots (70.8 percent), its best performance since making 71.4 percent against Saint Louis. It is WSU’s third game over 70 percent from the line and comes after it made a season-low 47.1 percent (8 of 17) against Alabama.
Next up: at Hawaii, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Diamond Head Classic (ESPN2)
Kansas.com: Shockers rout Lions with second-half outburst.
Omaha.com: Nebraska requested a game with Hawaii and may regret that choice.
Colorado plays George Washington in the other semifinal.
▪ Wichita State did enjoy a big lead in a game against an overmatched opponent, so let’s not overstate the compliment. But it did seem important that coach Gregg Marshall trusted freshman Zach Brown to guard Loyola Marymount’s Evan Payne, the team’s leading scorer, early in the second half.
Brown earned a DNP (did not play) in four games this season and hadn’t played more than eight minutes against a Division I opponent. Yet, there he was Monday looking more like he belonged than in previous games.
“Athletically, physically, he’s certainly ready,” Marshall said. “Tonight, he gained some confidence. He guarded a very good player in Payne. His size gave Payne some problems. When he was guarding Payne, we had a physical advantage in terms of height, and that was rare.”
Brown, a 6-foot-7 forward, offers appealing assets when he gets acclimated. As Marshall mentioned, he can give the Shockers size on the wing that can be helpful. He is a strong athlete and a good shooter with the ability to drive and score around the basket.
Like many of the Shocker newcomers, he needs to do the defense and rebounding things to activate all the other parts of his game. WSU’s reserves combined for four turnovers, two by walk-on John Robert Simon, a solid stretch of low-mistake basketball by the newcomers.
“Watching Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker and playing against these NBA guys, these professionals, is actually helping me out a lot,” Brown said. “To go out there and perform well defensively, like I did, is a really good accomplishment for me. Coach told me to ready for him. He’s actually telling me that he’s ready for me to take the next step and be able to continue to go against these top-level guys. I’m actually pretty honored that he put me on him.”
Brown played a season-high 16 minutes and scored a season-high 10 points (he had scored three in four games against Division I schools) by making 3 of 6 shots, including a three.
▪ WSU’s newcomers are working with the mandate that they are no longer freshmen (or transfers). Evan Wessel’s injury, three games in four days, and looming MVC play seems to have put a rush on development. It helps that there are no practice-time limits during Christmas break, which means players can work on skills with coaches outside of normal practice time.
Monday’s game gave the rookies a chance to play significant minutes, play through a mistake and build some confidence and flow. Marshall played five reserves in the first half, mostly one or two at a time, to see who can fit with the starters. Sometimes that is a better evaluation period than when things get messy with four newcomers playing together.
“It’s real important to get opportunities like that,” freshman guard Corey Henderson Jr. said. “It builds kind of chemistry out there with the new guys. Eventually, they’re going to need us.”
Marshall enjoyed a long list of reserves who played well, including freshman walk-on Jared Walker, who made his first three.
“Bush Wamukota gave us five big points early in the first half,” Marshall said. “Henderson ran the ballclub well. I was proud of Jared Walker, coming and acting like he belong out there, playing with a lot of confidence. We had 15 guys … who participated and, when they got their opportunity, contributed to this win.”
▪ One of the best things about college basketball is watching the bench when the deep reserves and walk-ons score or make a good play. WSU’s starters love it and the enthusiasm and celebrations from the bench is a tribute to a team’s chemistry. On Monday, WSU’s starters had plenty to cheer.
“It’s just fun to get to see them get to out there and get the same opportunity as us,” WSU senior Darius Carter said. “They work hard, just like we do, every day in practice. We’re happy that they get their shot.”
▪ Carter is 2 for 2 in his career from three-point range after making one Monday. He felt good enough about it to throw up the three-goggles.
“That was just for fun, for the bench, to have fun with those guys,” he said.
Marshall doesn’t see Carter shooting a lot of three-pointers. If the shot is open, Carter has permission to fire away.
“I don’t want to take any bad threes this year,” Carter said. “That’s my goal. When I get the opportunity, I want to knock it down.”