Wichita State Shockers

Shockers still wait for first close call

Wichita State may possess loads of the talent and the composure necessary to pull off a win in the final minutes. Nobody knows, though, because the Shockers don't play close basketball games.

"We're actually looking for some close games," WSU sophomore guard Toure Murry said. "We're excited to show what our team can do when adversity calls."

Adversity can't find WSU's number through the first nine games. The Shockers (8-1) are beating teams by an average of 19.8 points and its slimmest margin of victory is 15. It lost to Pittsburgh by 13. Not since 1953-54 has a Shocker team played nine games to start the season without a margin under 10 points.

If you're looking for drama, look elsewhere.

That may change tonight against TCU (5-4) at Koch Arena. It may change a week from tonight against No. 23 Texas Tech.

"I'm kind of curious to see how we we're going to react, but I think we've got enough experience to pull out a close game," guard Clevin Hannah said.

The final five minutes have been a chance for coach Gregg Marshall to play freshmen and walk-ons. No opponent rallied closer than 13 points in the final five minutes of a WSU victory. WSU led by 10 or more points for the entire second half in six of its eight wins. Against Pitt, WSU got no closer than 12 in the final five minutes.

It's been a pressure-free existence. No make-or-break shots. No game-defining defensive stands. No goat-or-hero moments.

"There's a lot more pressure on the players," Murry said. "It shows who is going to step up and who is going to shy away. I think this team will step up."

Marshall said the Shockers wrap up practices with late-game situations about 60 percent of the time. Friday, he gave the scout team a 63-61 lead with 1:25 to play and the first team forced overtime. He hasn't changed his practice routine to give WSU more late-game situations.

"We really were effective last year, and we've been effective at the end of halves this year," Marshall said. "We've just got to play the close games when they come."

After playing a series of over-matched opponents, those late-game practices may come in handy soon. TCU defeated WSU 57-48 last season in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs beat WSU 33-27 on the backboards and held the Shockers to 25 percent shooting (4 of 16) from three-point range.

"We couldn't score like we wanted to," Murry said. "This year, I think we have more weapons."

TCU plays a man-to-man defense that is a trademark of coach Jim Christian. They are holding teams to 28.8 percent three-point accuracy.

"Very physical and tough defensive team," Marshall said.

Sophomore guard Ronnie Moss didn't do anything memorable in last season's game, scoring three points. He will be a major focus of the WSU defense tonight. He averages 17.7 points, up seven from last season's average.

"He's tough and strong," Marshall said. "He's really asserting himself offensively. He's looking to score."