WSU's Toure MurryWichita State put on a veteran, workman-like show at SIU Arena on Wednesday in a 74-64 win. The Shockers didn’t do anything spectacular on offense. They only made three three-pointers.They played strong defense for most of the second half. They wore down SIU by committing only two second-half turnovers. When a team with as many weapons as WSU gets more possessions than normal, it’s trouble for the defense.
WSU’s five turnovers for the game are its fewest of the season. Last season, WSU committed four in a win over Indiana State at home. They shot 50 percent, largely because SIU committed 17 turnovers and WSU scored 23 points off them. In the second half, WSU guards did a nice job penetrating and passing for easy baskets.
The Shocker guards dominated - even scoreless Joe Ragland handed out five assists – to make SIU coach Chris Lowery a prophet. His worries about his guards are well-founded. Of course, Lowery expected to roll out a backcourt with Kevin Dillard, Ryan Hare and Torres Rountree this season. Wednesday’s WSU win is a lesson in the perils of blowing a recruiting class. Lowery is trying to rebuild with inexperience guards and it’s not easy.
WSU needs to call up several more of those efforts on the road. It has four MVC road games remaining. All four figure to be challenging, and the Shockers probably need to at least split them to have a shot at the regular-season title. Evansville’s win over Indiana State makes that last trip to Roberts Stadium scary. It comes after a game at Northern Iowa, sure to be difficult, and before a BracketBusters game sure to be hyped.
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It’s not easy being Lowery. A Carbondale media member told me fans are yelling at his wife at games. Fans booed on Wednesday. A man stood in the upper concourse and yelled at Lowery as the final seconds ticked away. It’s a long, hard fall from NCAA Tournament bids in 2002, 03, 04, 05, 06 and 07. SIU is going to be scrambling to avoid the play-in round in St. Louis.Ragland’s shooting woes are a bit of a mystery. He went 0 for 4 from the field on Wednesday, dropping his season totals to 38 of 87 and 14 of 49 from three-point range. “Joe can’t buy a basket,” Marshall said. “He’s one of the best shooters you can imagine in practice. Unfortunately, when the lights are bright, he can’t make a shot. He’s going to have to get over that.”I figured J.T. Durley’s left foot felt good when I saw him make a steal near half-court and drive to the basket. “I had a couple of instances during the game when I tweaked it a little bit,” he said. “Other than that, I felt pretty good.”WSU forward Gabe Blair is 12 for 17 from the field in the past two games, averaging 15 points and 8.5 rebounds. He had his first double-double (12 and 12) against Indiana State and a career-high 18 points against SIU. “He’s been a lot more aggressive,” Murry said. “A lot of teams are playing him like he can’t score. The guards are penetrating and kicking to him, and he’s finishing great.”Winning five MVC road games by 10 or more points seems like an unbelievable stat. Regardless of how strong the conference is or isn’t, conference road games are difficult.