It’s a small category, so let’s call it the best road win of coach Gregg Marshall’s three seasons at WSU. The only other effort that comes close is a 51-point second half at Bradley in a game WSU won 80-73 in 2008. The others (at Appalachian State and at Indiana State) featured nervous moments. Saturday, the Shockers took on a solid program (one with an NCAA Tournament win in 2009) and ran the Vikings out of the gym and into Lake Erie.
Even allowing for CSU’s travel fatigue, WSU accomplished something solid with its gavel-to-gavel control of that game. Combine it with the neutral-court win over Iowa that preceded it, and the Shockers should feel good about leaving Koch Arena (something it does only once more before MVC play begins). Last season, the Shockers got a vacant look in their eyes on the road. They couldn’t duplicate the intensity that made them tough at home. Saturday, a team that is a year older looked like it understands how to play on the road.“We knew this was a big game,” WSU junior Graham Hatch said. “I think we’re responding to coach’s philosophy about being road warriors. We know we’re going to be at a disadvantage when we’re on the road, but overcoming those and coming together as a team, I think we did that well.”
The Vikings are a mess on defense. Opponents are shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from three-point range. That must be killing coach Gary Waters, who made his reputation with tough man-to-man defense at Kent State. He said this team isn’t ready to play his pressure defense yet.WSU center Garrett Stutz is scoring. We knew he could do that. His rebounding (five against Iowa and six against CSU) is also encouraging. He is clearly more active and getting his hands on more balls. He leads WSU with 11 offensive rebounds. Last season, he grabbed 30 in 34 games. “I still let a one or two get away,” Stutz said. “It was good, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.”Let’s nit-pick the 4-1 start. Backup point guards Demetric Williams and Kenny Manigault are up and down, mostly down in the past two games. It may be January before they are trustworthy. WSU has three home games against overmatched opponents coming up. The freshmen should get plenty of work. Depth helps WSU survive foul trouble with its big men. It needs more than 13 minutes (Iowa) and 20 (CSU) from J.T. Durley. Consequently, opponents are shooting more free throws (99-96) than WSU. David Kyles has two points in the past two games. He is capable of more than that. To his credit, he isn’t forcing shots.
Around the MVC
Bradley beat No. 21 Illinois on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It’s the best win for an MVC team this season. It appears to be the biggest non-conference win of Jim Les’ tenure.Missouri State’s win over Conference USA preseason favorite (Memphis may be changing minds) Tulsa is a close second. The Bears are 5-0 and don’t consider themselves one of the MVC’s bottom teams.Creighton lost Sunday morning to Iona to conclude an 0-3 stay in Disney. Disaster. I watched Creighton against Michigan and thought the Jays looked very good. Not coming out of that tournament with at least one win is bad for the Jays and bad for the MVC. Creighton misses Josh Dotzler’s steady hand at point guard. It committed 21 turnovers against Iona. P’Allen Stinnett played 18 minutes and scored two points to wrap up a miserable weekend – 8 of 22 shooting, 11 turnovers, two assists. No doubt, Creighton will pull out of this slump. It missed a chance to help its March resume. The MVC’s defending champ needs to do better, especially against Iona.