Key statistics: The Shockers shot 57.1 percent in the second half (12 of 21) and committed three second-half turnovers. They scored 41 second-half points, despite grabbing two offensive rebounds. WSU is the fourth team to shoot better than 50 percent (52.3) for a game against the Redbirds.
Records: ISU 8-6, 0-2 MVC; WSU 12-2, 2-0
How the game turned: The Redbirds grabbed eight offensive rebounds on their first seven possessions, resulting in 11 second-chance points, in the second half. WSU got that under control the rest of the half and allowed only one second-chance point in the game’s final 13 minutes.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU’s Tekele Cotton (38 minutes), Ron Baker (38) and Fred VanVleet (36) rarely clocked out.
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Stat that might surprise you: WSU’s Shaq Morris played 10 minutes and scored nine points and blocked three shots. That is a season-high in blocks for WSU and the sixth time this season a Shocker blocked more than one.
Next up: vs. Bradley, 7 p.m. Wednesday (Cox 22)
▪ Darius Carter took eight shots, none outside the lane. Morris took four shots, none outside the lane. As soon as a big man shows he can score in the lane, we want him to show more range and start making jump shots.
Jump shots are helpful, but the Shockers need their big men in the lane where they draw fouls and grab offensive rebounds. Carter is a scoring threat in and out of the lane and WSU is making an effort to get him going near the basket more often. Against the Redbirds, he did a good job establishing position close to the basket. Then he can make a quick move, with or without a dribble, and not give the defense time to react.
“That was big emphasis for me because the past couple games I haven’t been being as aggressive as I should be on offense, taking bad shots, rushing my shots, not being as strong as I should be,” Carter said. “That was something I was definitely thinking about during that game and will be thinking about from here on.”
▪ Teams previously out-rebounded the Shockers in back-to-back games in 2011, when Indiana State (51-46 in three overtimes) and Southern Illinois (30-25) won that battle.
There are ways to win without dominating the backboards, but coach Gregg Marshall wants little part of that. Teams can make up possessions by forcing turnovers, avoiding turnovers and making shots. Marshall likes the physical dominance a rebounding edge creates. There are few things more demoralizing then giving up an offensive rebound for a score, especially if the defense held strong for 30 seconds. WSU thrives on those kind of plays.
Not the last two games.
Drake out-rebounded WSU 38-29, 12-6 on offense. Drake outscored WSU 11-3 on second-chance points. Center Jacob Enevold did most of that damage with 15 rebounds, five on offense. Illinois State, a much closer physical matchup to the Shockers, out-rebounded them 32-27, 14-7 on the offensive glass. The Redbirds scored 15 second-chance points to WSU’s three.
Since the 2010-11 season, WSU has out-rebounded 134 of its 153 opponents.
Baker called the rebounding issues the start of WSU’s problems the past four games (in which the Shockers are 3-1).
“Usually, rebounding is our thing and the past two games it hasn’t been,” he said. “If you tell yourself you’re going to get the rebound and it’s right in your area and you’ve got the right mindset and process to go up with two hands and squeeze it and try to pull all the air out of it, I’d say you’re probably going to get the rebound. I’d say it’s probably a 50-50 deal (physically and mentally).”
▪ WSU is a better team with Evan Wessel healthy. If MVC games are going to be a defensive struggle, he can earn an extra possession or two that can make a difference. On Sunday, he did a good defensive job on freshman MiKyle McIntosh, who missed 8 of 10 shots and scored nine points. McIntosh entered the game averaging 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in his past seven games after averaging 2.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in his first six.
Wessel didn’t shut down McIntosh, but he limited his effectiveness. McIntosh, who grabbed seven rebounds, committed three turnovers and missed all five of his three-point attempts.
“I’m not sure we win the game without (Wessel),” Marshall said. “He did a great job on McIntosh. We had a pretty good game plan on him. He likes to bull-rush to the rim. Evan was able to move his feet and keep him in front.”
▪ Cotton’s dunk and Baker’s chasedown block will stand out as the game’s highlights. Baker said he was supposed to play the safety when VanVleet drove to the basket. When the outlet pass, after VanVleet’s turnover, got ahead of him, he had ground to make up to catch Illinois State’s Daishon Knight.
“I got caught watching the play,” Baker said. “I thought Tekele or somebody was back in the backcourt. No one was, so I just made a great hustle play and went for the ball.”
▪ The Redbirds played without starters DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and Deontae Hawkins. Center Reggie Lynch is playing with a bad back. Circle that Feb. 14 trip to Normal as a big game. Akoon-Purcell should return from his broken hand by then. Hawkins’ stress reaction in his left foot make his return more of an unknown.
While the Redbirds looked impressive in many facets Sunday, their loss to Indiana State at home shows the value of consistency and maturity. It is hard to win an MVC title dropping home games to teams that don’t figure to contend.