In the first half, Wichita State's newcomers played like newcomers, contributing to an uneven 20 minutes in their NCAA Division I debut.
In the second half, the newcomers played like a group that can help this season. If you let your mind wander a bit, they played like a group that will one day play significant minutes against the Creightons and Drakes of the world, not just Emporia State in an exhibition.
WSU defeated Emporia State 82-43 on Tuesday at Koch Arena, ripping free of the NCAA Division II Hornets with 50-second half points.
"First half, there was probably a little bit of nervousness," WSU freshman Evan Wessel said. "Once you get a little feel for it and it starts to go away you can relax and play a little more."
WSU played shorthanded, with senior guard Toure Murry out with bruised ribs. The Shockers may have missed him early.
The Hornets tied the game 13-all with 9:35 to play in the first half. ESU recovered from a 12-0 run and with 2:05 remaining in the half, WSU led 27-20.
By then, the nerves just about disappeared and the Shockers took control. A three-pointer by Ben Smith and a dunk by Tekele Cotton made it 32-20 at halftime. A veteran lineup opened the second half with an 11-0 run. WSU led 50-26 when coach Gregg Marshall subbed in three newcomers and junior reserve Ehimen Orukpe.
"We had a good end to the first half and it carried over to the second half," Marshall said. "They played very well defensively. Then the second group was really good."
Both groups started their offense with good defense and rebounding. WSU won the rebounding stat by one in the first half and ended the game with an edge of 13.
Senior Joe Ragland forced a turnover that led to a layup for a 38-20 lead. Ragland harassed Emporia State's Derrell Conner into a tough shot. After the miss, WSU scored on Garrett Stutz's one-handed dunk on an inbound play. Ragland added a three-point play after ESU's Antonio DiMaria took an off-balance shot.
"We had to pick it up defensively," Ragland said. "We had to play a lot harder."
Marshall used his press with the newcomers in the game and it paid off with a steal. After the Hornets cut into the lead, Cotton stripped the ball from Taylor Euler and scored for a 59-32 lead. The Shockers forced three straight turnovers — one a shot-clock violation — to help add to their lead.
WSU, after making 13 of 34 shots in the first half, made 19 of 35 (54.3 percent) in the second half. Wessel made two threes and scored six points in the second half. Freshman guard Ron Baker scored all six of his points after halftime. Junior forward James Anacreon scored all five of his points in the second half, thanks to nice passes from his teammates.
"The freshmen aren't shy," Marshall said. "They let it fly."
With the reserves playing well, Marshall rested his starters most of the second half. They got to watch the new guys show off their skills.
Junior forward Carl Hall, a transfer, totaled nine points and 11 rebounds. Wessel and Baker displayed shooting range and Baker made a beauty of a pass for an Anacreon layup. Cotton played the physical defense that Marshall loves and a hit free-throw line jumper.
The Shockers totaled 23 assists and nine turnovers, numbers that don't reflect double-digit minutes played by six newcomers.
"They were a lot more composed and a lot smarter than I was my first time out there," Ragland said.
Stutz and Ragland led all scorers with 10 points each. Ben Smith added eight off the bench.
DiMaria led ESU with nine points. The Hornets, picked eighth in the MIAA media poll, made 17 of 52 shots (32.7 percent) and committed 22 turnovers.
Egharevba in limbo — WSU freshman Ede Egharevba did not play Tuesday and may not be a Shocker much longer.
"Ede is deciding if he wants to be a part of our program," Marshall said. "Not everybody is cut out to play Division I basketball, especially here. Ede is a good kid, good student."
Marshall said Egharevba remains in school. He is not practicing.
"It will come to a head real soon, but right now he is not with us," Marshall said.
Egharevba, a 6-foot-6 forward, is from Queens, N.Y. He was considered a candidate for a redshirt season.