News Columns & Blogs

Drake at Wichita State, Day After

For the first time in a long time, WSU didn’t need to win a shootout in the second half. That had to be refreshing for coach Gregg Marshall, who hates to give up points. The Shockers responded by holding Drake to 18 second-half points and 38 total in Friday’s 61-38 win.

It seemed to me, WSU played a little tight in the first half. Drake’s style of play probably contributes to that. Perhaps getting this win will help the Shockers return to playing the way they did earlier this season. I’m not talking about scoring a lot of points – that won’t happen often in the MVC. I’m talking about playing with a little more confidence and intensity. The Shockers seemed to lose some of that over the break and during the second half of Tuesday’s loss to Illinois State.

The good thing about Friday’s win is that so many Shockers contributed, especially on defense. Nine players played 17 minutes or more. Eight scored between five and 11 points. Bench players Garrett Stutz (eight) and Gabe Blair (six) rebounded. David Kyles scored nine points.

The Shockers have gone eight deep most of the season. Freshman point guard Demetric Williams made them nine deep against Drake with 17 solid minutes. He had three turnovers. Two happened in the final 1:11 during garbage time. Marshall showed confidence in Williams by leaving him in during the game’s crucial minutes. He guarded Josh Young. He helped on offense with an assist and a three and two free throws. He grabbed three rebounds and a steal. Clevin Hannah played 28 minutes after playing 33-plus in three of the past four games.Surely WSU will see more zone this season. The Shockers will be hard to play man-to-man because of their post scoring.Toure Murry gives WSU many assets besides scoring. He played fine defense on Friday and is one of WSU’s better rebounders. Man, it’s nice when he is scoring. He didn’t force shots, probably a good tactic for a player fighting a shooting slump. The difference between WSU needing to win 63-57 dogfights in the MVC and getting to win 70-57 games will probably be Murry. If he can be a more efficient scorer, as he was for the first six games of the season, WSU will enjoy more breathing room. If he struggles, it’s going to be more of a grind. Murry is 21 of 61 from the floor in his past six games, including Friday’s 3-for-6 performance.

Around the Valley

Bradley will either come in desperate and hungry or beaten down after losing to SIU at home on Friday. The Braves led 79-72 with 1:44 to play. The Braves lost 86-81 and heard boos from the Carver Arena fans. The verdict from Kirk Wessler of the Peoria Journal-Star – Bradley is soft.Creighton is 0-2 in the MVC and calling team meetings in the hotel.Forward Justin Carter, whom I considered its best player, is not contributing like he did last season. I would guess he is not fully recovered from a knee injury and might not return to form until later this season, if at all. Indiana State coach Kevin McKenna used the new rule for picking free-throw shooters after an injury to his advantage.The Sycamores proved that old adage that a team is so dangerous in that first game after losing a key player to injury. I think Al McGuire said that. Or maybe Dick Vitale. Perhaps it was Churchill. Nigel Tufnel certainly said it about rock bands after losing a drummer.WSU didn’t get the second-half defense award for the night. Northern Iowa held Evansville to 13 points after halftime.Adam Leonard ices Illinois State. MSU blew a 19-point lead before winning. The Redbirds showed something with the rally, in the opinion of the Pantagraph’s Jim Benson.Texas Tech’s results since leaving WSU are mixed – win over Stanford, big loss at New Mexico, close win over McNeese State.