WSU 107, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 65
WSU 109, Morningside 66 (NAIA)
WSU 96, Eastern Michigan 62
WSU 94, Chicago State 44
WSU 102, Newman 53 (NCAA Division II)
WSU 90, Bradley 51
WSU 71, New Mexico State 41
WSU 99, Missouri State 68
WSU 84, Indiana State 51
Wichita State is playing great defense and you probably know all those numbers. Sunday’s win gave the Shockers their first 30-point wins over three consecutive NCAA Division I opponents.
In those three games, the Shockers held their opponents to 10 of 50 three-point shooting and forced 52 turnovers while allowing 58 baskets. Tthe opponents combined for 21 assists on their 58 baskets, which means much of their offense came on one-on-one moves, guarded shots and late in the shot clock.
WSU committed 17 turnovers in those three games and the whole package gave it 34 more shots than its three opponents.
Sunday’s performance was enough to move WSU back to No. 1 in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency stat. The Shockers allow opponents to score .893 points per possession, ahead of Louisville at .898. (The top 50 offensive teams range from scoring .111 to .124 points per possession and mid-level offenses are around .103).
WSU’s defensive efficiency per 100 possessions (national rank)
While the Shockers are typically a strong defensive team, this group excels at causing turnovers and has the last two seasons. Opponents give away the ball almost on a quarter of their possessions, a number that dips slightly (22.9) in MVC games.
Opponent turnover percentage (national rank)
How the game turned: Wichita State’s front-court reserves provided the early margin.
Freshman Markis McDuffie made a three-pointer to break a 7-all tie. Anton Grady made two jumpers. McDuffie drove and drew a foul and Grady added another jumper for a 20-11 lead.
Records: WSU 21-7, 14-2 MVC; ISU 13-15, 7-9
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: Eight assists and one turnover for WSU’s Fred VanVleet. He took over the MVC’s assists lead with an average of 5.7.
Stat that might surprise you: One foul in 18 minutes for Shaq Morris, which gives him one in the past two games.
Freshman watch: McDuffie scored 11 points in 21 minutes, making all six of his foul shots. It was his first double-figures scoring game since he had 10 at Bradley on Jan. 23.
McDuffie admitted to some freshman fatigue in recent weeks. That’s not unusual for a player going through the physical and mental demands for the first time. It helps that March is coming soon and that can provide a fresh outlook.
“It’s about having positive energy ‘Saying I’m going to be better today,’” he said. “We’re all like brothers. We see someone worn down and we just pick them up.”
Rotation watch: WSU’s bench outscored Indiana State’s 34-13 with McDuffie leading the way and Conner Frankamp adding nine points and two assists. Grady also had two assists and his interior passing helped break down the defense in the first half.
Why they’re All-Americans: I’m so inadequate at judging the MVC’s top defensive players that I hesitate to offer opinions on the All-Defensive Team and the like.
I would, however, vote that Ron Baker should win the Valley’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. He does so much to set WSU’s defensive agenda with his hustle, refusal to back off and smarts.
In the past, Tekele Cotton and Baker’s scoring overshadowed his defense. And while he doesn’t always take the opposition’s top scorer, that is more a reflection of WSU’s depth than Baker’s ability. He is at the front of WSU’s pressure in passing lanes that make it difficult to run an offense and he is an under-rated shot-blocking threat coming from off the ball.
WSU is the Valley’s dominant defensive team. Certainly there are other excellent defenders — Devonte Brown, Jaylon Brown, Egidijus Mockevicius, Paris Lee and even as I’m typing those names I’m not really sure. I see them live twice a season and a few more on TV. Those are guys who appear to me really change the game with their defense. How well do they fit into their team’s plan and how hard do they play each night? Those are things I’m not as sure of.
I’m sure about Baker’s contributions to this season’s team.
▪ WSU sophomore Rashard Kelly faced down the freight train that is Indiana State’s Brandon Murphy (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) and stood on the tracks.
Murphy ran over Kelly for a charging foul midway through the first half. Kelly decided he preferred taking the blow over facing teammates and coaches if he didn’t. It wasn’t much of a choice.
“Not a lot of people would probably do that, if you think about it,” he said. “Then you’ve got to think about what the reaction would be if you don’t take the charge. If you look at Brandon Murphy and think about letting him run you over, then you’re not going to do it. You’ve just got to do what’s best for the team.”
Kelly did a nice job getting to the right spot to stop Murphy headed to the basket on the pick and roll.
“The energy I had in the moment, I didn’t really feel it,” Kelly said.
Kelly surely earned some props in the next film session.
“That’s a manly play,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
▪ The Shockers handed the Sycamores their worst home loss at Hulman Center and worst home loss as an NCAA Division I program. It was their worst home loss since UCLA won by 36 points during the 1964-65 season at ISU Arena.
Next up: at Loyola (14-14, 7-9), Wednesday, 8:05 p.m., Cox 22
The Ramblers have won four of five games, including at Southern Illinois and at home against Northern Iowa. They are tied with Indiana State and Missouri State. One of those teams is likely to finish sixth and escape Thursday in St. Louis.