KANSAS CITY, Mo. —I'm sure a point guard who didn't make it on to the basketball court Monday night could have helped Wichita State during its 68-55 loss to Pittsburgh in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.
Clevin Hannah, out for a third and final game because of a WSU administrative error regarding NCAA amateur status, would have given the Shockers a healthy dose of senior experience, someone to get the ball into the right places more often than WSU did and an ability to help J.T. Durley and Toure Murry score some points since very few other Shockers did.
But the guy I'm talking about is Magic Johnson, who was at the Sprint Center's College Basketball Experience on Sunday to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. But Magic had to catch a plane out of town soon after the ceremony and wasn't one of the five inductees introduced at halftime of the WSU-Pitt game.
Then again, there might have been a few point guards in the crowd who could have helped the Shockers, who were strapped with 24 turnovers and a general sloppiness that thwarted any comeback notions.
Against a defense-first team like Pitt, you need everybody in their best ball-protection mode. WSU coach Gregg Marshall compared the Panthers to a football team because of their style of play at both ends.
It's defense, though, that gives the Panthers their identity; and their guards didn't allow much room for the Shockers' backcourt players to breathe, let alone maneuver.
Murry, a sophomore who is most comfortable working to get the ball and not distributing it, took the point in Hannah's absence and committed six turnovers while handing out only one assist. Marshall also tried freshmen Demetric Williams and Kenny Manigault at the point. The Panthers eat freshmen point guards for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"We looked like a team that missed their senior point guard,'' Marshall said.
Hannah would have made a difference. Not enough for the Shockers to win; but enough to have cut down on turnovers, to help distribute the basketball and to make a few shots. As it was, Murry and Durley combined for 35 of WSU's 55 points.
"I'm just glad these three games are over," said Hannah, who will make his 2009-10 Shocker debut tonight against Iowa or Texas in the CBE's third-place game. "It's been a long time coming.''
Hannah admitted he was upset about the clerical error that actually happened before last season but was only recently discovered.
"Wouldn't you be upset about something you don't even know about?" he asked.
Yes, I would. Mad as a hornet, actually.
But the time to be upset is in the past; and Hannah, the Shockers' leading scorer last season, will give this team a jolt.
Losing to Pittsburgh, which is 35-0 in November under Jamie Dixon, is nothing to hang heads about. It's disappointing, though, that the Shockers never got their bearings after they had moved to within striking distance a couple of times.
Back-to-back baskets by Garrett Stutz and Gabe Blair brought the Shockers to within 16-15 with 9:13 to play in the first half, but they were outscored by Pittsburgh 16-6 the rest of the half.
Wichita State got to within 43-40 with 13 minutes left after a slick pass from Manigault to Durley, but the Panthers went on a 17-6 run.
There were too many turnovers, too many quick shots, too many defensive lapses and not enough firepower.
Three Shocker starters — Graham Hatch, David Kyles and Aaron Ellis — combined for two points in 74 minutes.
"They did a really good job on Kyles, just playing up on him," Marshall said. "And they frustrated Hatch, as well. They played him as a catch and shoot guy."
The only offensively-productive Shocker, other than Murry and Durley, was junior forward Gabe Blair, who had nine points and a team-high eight rebounds in 23 minutes and enjoyed mixing it up with the Panthers' physical inside players.
Pittsburgh isn't the team it was last season, when the Panthers lost 78-76 to Big East-rival Villanova in the Elite Eight. Only one starter, senior guard Jermaine Dixon, is back and he's out of action with a broken foot.
If not having Hannah was a blow to the Shockers, not having Dixon was just as detrimental to Pittsburgh.
The difference was how the Panthers' guards picked up the slack. Redshirt freshman Travon Woodall and sophomore Ashton Gibbs combined for 37 points, nine assists and five steals. They made 11 of 20 shots and got to the free-throw line 17 times, making 12.
Hannah would have helped. The Shockers were badly outplayed in the backcourt despite Murry's 20 points. He didn't have enough help. Williams and Manigault will probably be ready to contribute big someday, but neither is there yet. And Kyles had a bad night.
"I know I would have been able to get out there and help my team," said Hannah, who instead wore a pair of WSU sweats and did his best to cheer on the Shockers. "I think I would have made a difference tonight. It's been tough not being out there, but my teammates have helped me through it."
Hannah's return tonight will make a difference. He's no Magic, but the Shockers have more tricks in their bag when he's out there.