Wichita State hit the 80-point jackpot once last season, against Buffalo in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at Koch Arena.
The Shockers failed to score 80 against the likes of Florida A&M, Centenary, Gardner-Webb, Northern Arizona, UMKC, Indiana State, Missouri State and NCAA Division II North Dakota, teams with a combined 2008-09 record of 83-154.
Scoring was a problem for Wichita State, which had to play defense to the hilt just to get to a 17-17 record. It was a lot of work and very little play for the Shockers, whose margin for error was made extremely thin by their offensive struggles.
Well, things just might be different this year.
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WSU opened its 2009-10 season with an 80-64 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday at Koch Arena. Before you get too carried away, I must point out that FDU was 7-24 last season and ranked 313th nationally among 300 teams in scoring defense. In other words, the Knights are not strangers to giving up big point totals in the process of being whupped.
That said, the Shockers' offense Sunday was chock-full of fun. Five players scored in double figures. Five players made three-pointers. Six players had two or more assists.
Wichita State hit 80 and could have gone higher against a Fairleigh Dickinson team that can be exploited in its front court. Three Knights guards combined for 45 points. Not bad. But except for a driving baseline dunk by 6-foot-8 Alvin Mofunanya in the second half, the FDU big men would have been better off staying on the team bus and playing Scrabble.
It was interesting to hear Fairleigh Dickinson coach Gregory Vetrone talk in the post-game news conference about how impressed he was by the Shockers. Just two days previous, the Knights had played against fifth-ranked Villanova in Philadelphia, losing 84-61 despite leading early in the second half.
Vetrone was effusive in his praise for Wichita State and guessed the Shockers would represent themselves well in the semifinals of the CBE Classic next Monday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
"You guys have a really good coach and a really good team,'' Vetrone said, talking to the media.
Wichita State ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally in scoring last season, and the Shockers won't get to the places Gregg Marshall is trying to take them unless they put the ball in the basket with more regularity.
It was there in spurts Sunday; WSU scored 19 points in the game's first 6:50 thanks mainly to effective transition.
But the Shockers scored just three points in the next 6:10 and it was like that for most of the game.
Basketball, like no other, is a game of runs. The best teams are capable of scoring bunches of points in a flurry, but few teams can keep up that kind of a pace over 40 minutes.
The Shockers don't need to score 80 to win games, but they do need to do better than their 62.4 points per game average from last season.
And they should.
Wichita State has more options. Marshall said it didn't feel like the team's depth was much better than a season ago because he was short-handed; senior guard Clevin Hannah is serving a three-game NCAA suspension and Marshall plans to red-shirt forward Jerome Hamilton and guard Tyler Richardson, both freshmen.
Depth, though, is better. Marshall has options at every position and veterans he can rely upon.
The Shockers' experienced players — J.T. Durley, Graham Hatch, Toure Murry, Aaron Ellis and David Kyles — are getting better with still much room to grow. All scored in double figures and combined to make 23 of 48 shots.
Durley was 7 of 8 from the floor but needs to improve his rebounding.
Marshall praised Ellis and Kyles for playing their best games as Shockers. Ellis had 10 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes; Kyles 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 31.
Hatch is Hatch, the Shockers' most physical and well-rounded player who can shoot three pointers and get to the free-throw line.
And Murry, forced to play the point in Hannah's absence, led WSU with 16 points and seven assists, although he missed some shots he'll tell you he should make.
Marshall would like to get better production from a couple of front-court backups, Garrett Stutz and Gabe Blair. Stutz fouled out after only 13 minutes and Blair struggled with his shooting, though he did have five rebounds.
With Hannah in street clothes, freshmen guards Demetric Williams and Kenny Manigault played a combined 24 minutes. Marshall will bring them along slowly, although both could have key roles at some stage.
Overall, it was an impressive opener for a team that is shooting for bigger and better things.
Hitting 80 was the highlight. If the Shockers can do that with some regularity, and do it against better teams than Fairleigh Dickinson, this season has a chance to be special.