Shockers open Valley play with 91-57 win over Evansville

It took Wichita State a mere eight minutes to end its frustrations with Evansville.

The Shockers broke the Aces so thoroughly they forced them into a rarely used zone defense midway through the first half. That represented the clearest sign Evansville's defense wasn't going to grab hold of the Shockers on Wednesday.

WSU blew out the Aces 91-57 in the Missouri Valley Conference opener at Koch Arena. The Shockers shot 62.3 percent for the game and topped 90 points in a conference game for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

"We didn't have any answers for them," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said.

In the two previous seasons, Evansville did. The teams split four games, all decided by nine points or fewer and once in overtime. The Aces gummed up WSU's motion offense and played most of those games on their patient terms.

Not Wednesday. WSU (10-2, 1-0 MVC) turned in a masterpiece of defense leading to easy baskets and routed the Aces (6-5, 0-1). The pained expressions and frustrated looks of past games gave way to smiles and laughs. Coach Gregg Marshall cleared the bench with more than three minutes remaining and walk-on Derek Brown scored six points — as many or more than four Evansville starters.

"Our main thing was transition offense," WSU guard Graham Hatch said. "We were able to get the stops. We were able to make them take bad shots. We had great transition offense off that."

In a matchup of the MVC preseason favorite against the last-place pick, WSU made an immediate statement. The Shockers led 11-2 after a turnover turned into a layup for Toure Murry. After Evansville's Clint Hopf walked, Murry scored on a lob from Hatch.

WSU made 6 of its first 7 shots. Evansville couldn't score and couldn't handle the ball against the Shocker defense. When Evansville's Denver Holmes missed, Gabe Blair rebounded and passed to Murry, who found Ben Smith open for a three-pointer on the break.

Down 24-8, Simmons called timeout and went to a zone defense with 12:07 remaining in the half.

"When we're running, we're a great team," Murry said. "We wanted to get them out early and not let them have confidence. We got out to a great lead and kept pushing."

Evansville's zone did its job for awhile. WSU led 38-25 at half. The Aces cut the lead to 44-35 in the second half before the Shockers got rolling again.

Smith, who scored a season-high 16 points, made another three, on another assist from Murry, for a 49-35 lead. A steal by J.T. Durley led to a dunk for Murry and a 51-35 lead.

Every miss and every Aces turnover fueled WSU's offense. Joe Ragland stripped Pieter van Tongeren and led the break, ending it with a no-look pass to David Kyles. His free throws made it 61-40.

The Shockers, much to Marshall's displeasure, have struggled with the notion of playing fast on offense and locking down opponents on defense. Wednesday's effort proved it can work.

"We just needed to work on it," Durley said. "It was new to us at the beginning of the year."

Murry made the offense and defense work together with seven assists and two turnovers. He ran the break expertly, finding open teammates and rarely making mistakes.

"We beat them down the court, in transition, in particular, as well as we've done in awhile," Marshall said. "Toure was doing a lot of that, passing ahead."

Evansville shot 34.6 percent from the field. Guard Colt Ryan, averaging 17.2 points, scored 18 on 4-of-12 shooting. WSU limited him to four points on four shots in the first half.

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