Wichita State coaches and players started the season talking about the need to play fast to take advantage of their depth and athletic ability.
With some teams, that’s just talk. Not with the Shockers. While they’re not a run-and-gun bunch, they used the fast break with devastating success in Saturday’s 74-57 win over Illinois State at Koch Arena.
“That's kind of where it starts with them, that they're coming at you faster than most people that you play,” Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich said. “And they’re fresh, because they’re subbing all the time so it doesn’t slow down.”
WSU (20-4, 11-2 Missouri Valley Conference) remained in first place in the Valley with its fifth straight win. It holds a one-game lead over Missouri State. Northern Iowa, which entered the day tied for second, lost to Drake to fall into third place.
WSU hit the 20-win mark for the 13th time and in back-to-back seasons for the fifth time. Illinois State (11-13, 3-10) lost to the Shockers for the fourth straight time.
The Shockers did almost everything right. They held the Redbirds, who had won three of four games after an 0-8 MVC start, to 18 baskets and 37.5-percent shooting. WSU turned those misses — and 11
turnovers — into a series of favorable offensive situations.
Illinois State started the game with four turnovers in the first five minutes. Point guard Anthony Cousin committed three of them, and the Redbirds never recovered from that out-of-control start to the game.
“We were very active in the beginning,” WSU guard Toure Murry said. “They turned the ball over early, and I think it took some aggression out of them.”
With the Redbirds retreating, the Shockers kept the ball moving. Murry grabbed 11 rebounds, allowing him to start the break and hand out four assists. The Shockers totaled 16 assists on 25 baskets. They made 7 of 19 threes and played the inside-out game to perfection. Post players J.T. Durley, Garrett Stutz and Gabe Blair combined for seven assists.
The Shockers led by 12 at halftime. They turned the game into a laugher with an 18-7 run early in the second half. Good passing and defense led the way. The Redbirds made one basket in the first three minutes of the half. It took more than two minutes to score again.
“That gets our motor going,” Stutz said. “Obviously, we're a phenomenal team in transition. Stops and quick defensive possessions lead to easy offensive possessions.”
One sequence stood out as indicative of a team hitting on all cylinders.
Stutz swished a three from the top of the key for a 47-29 lead, causing Jankovich to call timeout with the sold-out crowd roaring. After a Redbirds miss, Stutz scored on a lefty up-and-under move. Illinois State turned the ball over, leading to a pump-fake and step-back three by David Kyles.
Down 52-29, Jankovich called another timeout.
The Shockers kept playing sharp basketball, passing crisply and moving for good shots. Their defense forced Illinois State into a series of one-on-one moves with little continuity. Marshall started clearing his bench with more than four minutes to play.