CLEVELAND —"The Road" for Wichita State basketball isn't a post-apocalyptic wasteland with roving gangs of cannibals and unrelenting cold like in the new movie based on the Cormac McCarthy novel.
Enter the world of sports hyperbole mode and, maybe, the despair resembles just that when the Shockers leave the comforts of Koch Arena. Last season, WSU went 1-10 on opposing home courts. It is 3-20 over the past two seasons.
Not end-of-civilization stuff, but not ideal for a team with designs on moving up.
The Shockers (3-1) travel to Cleveland State (3-3) today for their first road game of the season. WSU is returning last season's Bracket Busters matchup, a 70-59 win in Koch Arena.
"I know it's on people's minds, how we're going to do when we hit the road," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "Different team, different year. We'll see."
The Shockers took a half-step toward winning away from home by splitting two games in Kansas City's Sprint Center earlier this week in the CBE Classic. Monday's 68-55 loss to Pittsburgh shouldn't shake their confidence too much. Tuesday's 74-57 win over Iowa, and the return of point guard Clevin Hannah, should help. WSU led the Hawkeyes by 14 at halftime and didn't allow them closer than seven in the second half. With Hannah back in charge of the offense, WSU committed a mere nine turnovers and shot 56.5 percent from the field. Its 11 threes are the most made during Marshall's three seasons at WSU.
"Eventually, we'll start getting them on the road as long we go back in practice and learn from our mistakes," Hannah said. "I think we can do it."
The Shockers gave fans some encouraging signs in their first four games. They are deeper and more experienced than the two previous teams that flopped on the road. Those teams often looked passive. They couldn't score, and their defense couldn't do enough to win.
"On the road, the difference between this year and last year is that our defensive intensity is still going to be there wherever we play," sophomore David Kyles said. "As long as our defense is there, I think our offense will get itself going."
Hannah's return helps immensely on offense. The Shockers looked more confident and smoother on offense with him in the lineup against Iowa. Sophomore Toure Murry and two freshmen did most of the ball-handling in his absence. Murry continued to score, but turnovers became a problem. He committed 12 in three games without Hannah, including six against Pitt. Against Iowa, Murry scored 18 points and made 4 of 7 threes. He had one assist and two turnovers.
" (Hannah) takes the pressure of handling the ball and running our club off of Toure Murry and some of the other guys," Marshall said. "Toure can then concentrate on being the dynamic scorer that he is."