I’m with Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, in not knowing what the final 20 minutes meant. The Shockers played well, although the defense still wasn’t up to earlier standards. At least, WSU looked more confident and more active. In Marshall’s mind, it’s meaningless unless things change in the future. The Shockers need to play with that focus for more minutes, especially early in the game. WSU was short-handed with Gabe Blair and David Kyles out. It is coming off a challenging travel schedule. Still, had it just been average in the first 10 minutes, things might have been different.“We’ve got to come out for 40 minutes like that,” WSU guard Clevin Hannah said. “We just can’t seem to do it.”The Shockers don’t really need to play that well for 40 minutes. Few teams play a locked-in 40 minutes. The Shockers need to avoid being totally unlocked-in for long stretches, like the first 10 minutes of the game at Bradley. When shots aren’t falling, they’ve got to find other things that work. Early in the MVC season, they did. Lately, they don’t.
That’s where Garrett Stutz and J.T. Durley come in. They should give WSU a one-two inside scoring punch that few MVC teams can match. Many Valley teams don’t have one post player who can score regularly. WSU has two. They seem criminally under-utilized. Usually, that’s on the guards for not getting them the ball and on them for not posting hard enough, rebounding or handling double-teams. You see a little bit of everything with the Shockers. Durley and Stutz can score, so the problem needs to be fixed.
Durley’s stats are very good in recent games – he is averaging 13.7 points and 10 rebounds in those games. Yet he seems to be scoring most of those points – all 13 in the second half Wednesday – to rally the Shockers instead of to build a lead.“That’s a big key for our success, to get him going early,” Hannah said.”If he can come out and play like that for as long as he’s out there, we’ll be good. Sometimes when we throw it down there, they double them and trap them. They’re not effective when they do that. In the second half, we played out of the post.”So the Shockers are left trying to build on those 20 solid minutes. They can finish unbeaten at home with a win over Southern Illinois on Saturday. They can finish second in the MVC. If they play well, they can do good things in St. Louis, It’s uncertain whether they can regain the snap they had earlier in the season. They showed some of it in the second half.
It’s going to be difficult to do anything in St. Louis until the defense improves. In the past six games, opponents shot 54.8 percent, 50 percent, 52 percent, 40.7 percent, 51 percent and 51.1 percent. WSU is 3-3 in those games.