Wichita State’s Conner Frankamp is not the least bit insulted with the label “game manager.”
An NFL quarterback might take that description as a knock on his arm strength and daring. For a Shocker point guard, it’s a job description and one Frankamp is happy to fulfill. He lets the offense work and gets shots for his teammates, while maintaining his own threatening jumper ready for the right situations.
What is becoming increasingly apparent is that Frankamp is managing an offense with fearsome potential. The Shockers embarrassed LSU 82-47 on Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis, treating the Tigers much like they did Maryland Eastern Shore, South Carolina State and the like.
“I don’t think anybody’s selfish at all,” Frankamp said. “Everybody’s happy, and I feel like that’s a unique thing for certain teams and this team has that.”
WSU (5-0) plays No. 10 Louisville at 1:30 p.m. in the semifinals. LSU (3-1) will play Old Dominionat 8:30.
Perhaps this game was supposed to test the Shockers, who played outside of Koch Arena for the first time and faced a bigger team. It did not challenge the Shockers to a significant degree, for they again negated any athletic disadvantage by playing hard and winning the scouting report in a rout. They led by 27 at halftime and a 10-0 run early in the second half snuffed out any interest from the Tigers in finishing strong.
“The first challenge of playing against competition of that caliber, we passed, and that’s all I’ll say,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
Markis McDuffie led WSU (5-0) with 15 points and Landry Shamet added 12. Frankamp scored eight points and handed out a career-high seven assists without a turnover.
LSU guard Antonio Blakeney scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting. The Tigers shot 28.1 percent and WSU handled LSU’s strategy of shooting threes and crashing the boards by out-rebounding the Tigers55-36.
The Shockers made 9 of 18 three-pointers and shot 44.9 percent from the field, hitting a hesitant defense with plays it wasn’t prepared for, drives it couldn’t contain and shots it couldn’t alter. WSU’s summer confidence in its ability to shoot more accurately than last season is proving accurate.
“Our timing is even better and we’re getting used to playing with each other,” Shamet said. “I don’t think we’re where we can be. We haven’t peaked yet.”
Frankamp, the Wichita City League’s career scoring leader, is stitching together a rotation that includes four players in their first season of NCAA Division I basketball and no seniors. He does it in the most economical way possible, moving the ball quickly, running sets smoothly and letting the offense work the way it is planned. In five games, he has 18 assists and three turnovers. The Shockers are shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three-point range.
“I feel like I can knock down a shot and score when I need to,” he said. “But also distribute the ball when guys are open and run the system.”
Making plays is helpful, and Frankamp can do that. Not making mistakes is perhaps more important.
“He’s very under control,” McDuffie said. “I like how he lets the game come to him. He’s really adjusted since he’s been here to being the starting point guard.”
Against LSU, the Shockers got open with little resistance, either because the Tigers didn’t prepare for WSU’s set plays or didn’t hustle to take advantage of their physical skills.
Wichita State ran a play it runs every game — called Jacksonville — and one that should be on the first page of every scouting report. It’s a screen play that tries to get a big man open near the basket for a pass from the baseline. Missouri Valley Conference teams place a man there a week before the game to stop it, because they know it’s coming.
LSU did not. It worked twice, once for McDuffie and once for Shaq Morris.
That’s how the first half went — almost everything the Shockers did worked. LSU looked dispirited, out of place and two steps slow.
WSU showed all its cards early. A Morris offensive rebound turned into a basket for Rashard Kelly. Kelly dove on the floor for a loose ball, a possession that turned into a three-point play for Landry Shamet and a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers called timeout. What they discussed is unknown. Their next possession ended in a turnover when Wyade Sims ran over WSU’s Rauno Nurger for a charge. Then Brandon Sampson’s three hit the side of the backboard. Three more missed shots, one swatted away by WSU’s Darral Willis, gave WSU a 13-1 lead. The Tigers didn’t score until a Craig Victor foul shot with 14:32 to play.
“They did a good job at punching first,” LSU coach Johnnie Jones said. “We did not do a great job of responding.”
LSU got some threes to fall and cut WSU’s lead to 15-9. Kelly responded with a three and that signaled the end of a competitive game. A 15-0 run made it 30-9. A few minutes later, the Tigers walked off the floor down 46-19 at halftime and looking stunned.
LSU returned from the break and played hard for a few minutes of solid defense. It scored the second half’s first five points, blocked two WSU shots and forced two turnovers.
The Shockers ended that brief rally with an 10-0 run. Threes by Austin Reaves and Nurger started the burst. A runner by Daishon Smith lofted over 6-foot-10 Duop Reath and a McDuffie follow gave the Shockers a 61-29 lead.
WSU vs. No. 10 Louisville
- When: 1:30 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas
- Records: WSU 5-0, UL 4-0
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: ESPN
Battle 4 Atlantis
At Paradise Island, Bahamas
Wichita State 82, LSU 47
Baylor 71, VCU 63
Michigan State 73, St. John’s 62
Louisville 68, Old Dominion 62
Baylor vs. Michigan State, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Wichita State vs. Louisville, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
VCU vs. St. John’s, 6 p.m. (AXS TV)
LSU vs. Old Dominion, 8:30 p.m. (AXS TV)
Third place, noon (ESPN/ESPN2)
Championship, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)
Fifth place, 6 p.m. (AXS TV)
Seventh place, 8:30 p.m. (AXS TV)