College Sports

Bob Lutz: Just think when all Shocker cylinders begin clicking

Wichita State's Fred VanVleet saves a ball from going out of bounds against Indiana State. The Shockers beat Indiana State 68-48 and are now 19-0.
Wichita State's Fred VanVleet saves a ball from going out of bounds against Indiana State. The Shockers beat Indiana State 68-48 and are now 19-0. The Wichita Eagle

Indiana State coach Greg Lansing had just watched his team get its brains beaten out by Wichita State and he went on the offensive — for the Shockers.

He said this WSU team is better than the one that went to the Final Four last season. He said the Shockers could run the table and win a national championship. He said Gregg Marshall is a great coach and the Shockers are a great team and the Wichita State fans are great fans.

And you know what everybody associated with Wichita State needs to do? Let all of that stuff go in one ear and out the other. Because while it’s pleasing to hear, it’s not worth the breath it took for Lansing, an affable coach with a high basketball IQ, used to say all of it.

The second Lansing left the interview room following Wichita State’s 68-48 dominance of his Sycamores, he started thinking about ways to get revenge in Terre Haute on Feb. 5.

The Shockers are ripping through the Missouri Valley Conference so far. Except for a bad first half at Missouri State — and give the Bears credit for a really good first half — Wichita State has outscored Valley foes 403-292 covering six games.

No wonder every defeated opposing coach can’t stop with the effusive descriptions.

Thing is, Wichita State hasn’t really played its best basketball. The scores say dominance. But the numbers? Not so much.

The Shockers shot 42.9 percent against Indiana State, right at their average in Valley play. They made 3 of 15 three-pointers, dropping their conference mark to a sub-par 31.2 percent.

Doesn’t matter.

The Shockers have shot 47 more free throws than their Valley opponents and outscored them 108-64 from the line. WSU has a 238-193 rebounding advantage, 51 turnovers to its opponents 74, 43 steals compared to 22, and 35 blocks to 20.

Oh, nobody shoots well against the Shockers, either. Indiana State made 31.4 percent and if guard Dawon Cummings doesn’t score 19 points, the Sycamores are probably riding on top of the plane back to Terre Haute.

It was a bad, bad day for the visitors. And just last season, Indiana State came into Koch and blitzed Wichita State 68-55 with the Shockers shooting 27.1 percent.

If there’s a difference between that team and this Wichita State team, it’s that this version doesn’t appear to be prone to those kinds of lapses.

Yes, Missouri State had the Shockers down big a week ago — 19 points with more than 11 minutes to play. I don’t think last year’s team, good as it was, comes back in that one.

Put nothing past this season’s team. You think this unbeaten talk is crazy? Not with this team, which is really good, and this year’s Valley group, which really isn’t good.

Saturday’s game was a battle of MVC unbeatens and you saw how that went. Indiana State kept pace for more than six minutes before WSU guard Fred VanVleet — yes, him again — scored seven points in a hurry and gave the Shockers a 15-8 lead with 11:20 to play in the first half.

WSU simply has too much for this Valley. A great point guard (VanVleet), a couple of other outstanding perimeter scorers (Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early), a defensive wizard (Tekele Cotton) and a three-headed post combo (Chadrack Lufile, Darius Carter and Kadeem Coleby) that combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds.

So far — and with this one it’s probably best for Shocker fans to knock on wood — perimeter depth hasn’t been needed. Senior Nick Wiggins and junior Evan Wessel, who were supposed to provide some scoring punch, have been unable to stay on track (Wiggins) or get on track (Wessel).

Again, though, it just hasn’t mattered. There hasn’t been a Valley team yet that can exploit any perceived chink in the Shockers’ armor. This team can make 3 of 15 three-pointers and still win by 20 because it does so many other things.

That credit goes to the players, of course, but also to Marshall and his coaching staff. The relentless preparation in practice and in video sessions pays off. The Shockers can play longer and harder than their opponents. Skill at times takes a backseat to perseverance and energy. Wichita State beats down its opponents and that was as true during the huge comeback against Missouri State as it has been all season.

Once the Shockers started climbing that hill, they were going to get to the top and there was nothing the Bears could do about it.

Indiana State felt a similar helplessness Saturday, which is why Lansing was beaming the way he was about the Shockers when it was finally over.

It could be a different game in Terre Haute. That’s what the Sycamores are telling themselves, to be sure. But do they really believe it? That’s the question.

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