Markis McDuffie won’t repeat the words he heard coming from the Colorado State student section. He smiled and enjoyed the memory, because absorbing that verbal abuse is all part of playing on the road. Watching those fans walk out quietly is the best part.
“They said a lot of explicit things,” he said. “Road games are the best because you’re able to prove everybody wrong. There’s a lot of chatter in your ear, a lot of haters. You just block it out.”
If it’s hard measure a team until it plays on the road, consider Wichita State’s 82-67 win over Colorado State on Saturday proof the Shockers remain road tough. Plenty of people in the WSU locker room wanted to see how the Shockers handled a big, physical team and a white-out Moby Arena crowd of 6,918.
“These dudes can be tough when they really want to,” WSU forward Zach Brown said. “That’s so good to know.”
WSU (7-2) toughed out a frustrating first half and overwhelmed the Rams with three-point shooting to pull away in the second half. It made 13 of 27 threes, most by a Rams opponent this season, and shot 46.7 percent from the field, best of any Rams opponent.
Brown led WSU with 16 points, making 5 of 9 shots. Shaq Morris added 13 points and six rebounds. WSU, after missing its lone free throw in the first half, made 13 of 16 in the second half. The Rams outscored WSU 13-0 at the line in the first half. In the second half, WSU made up ground by driving to the basket more often and outscored the Rams 13-11 from the line.
Prentiss Nixon led the Rams with 20 points. He made 5 of 6 threes after entering the game 5 of 25.
Rams coach Larry Eustachy feared WSU’s athletic ability on defense, so much so he estimated 80 percent of his preparation concern rested on turnovers. The Shockers forced 13 in the second half and 19 for the game, leading to 25 points.
“They can make you pay, and they did,” Eustachy said. “We got away from who we were and I think the crowd had a lot to do with it. I think we’ll have crowds like that and you’ve got to get used to it.”
WSU’s depth and pressure defense took hold in the final eight minutes. The Rams committed six of their turnovers and missed six of their final eight shots. The Shockers took over the tempo with deflections and hustle to turn a 60-59 lead into an 11-point edge in 1:59. They finished the game on a 22-8 run.
Brown’s three started the burst. Two free throws by McDuffie made it 65-59. A steal by Brown ended in his three-point play and a 68-59 lead. Daishon Smith sank two foul shots for a 70-59 edge.
“We weren’t good in transition, other than (after turnovers),” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Our deflections and loose balls gave us a couple of runouts and easy baskets. Daishon became really active, got his hands on a couple balls. He always seems to be in it. Zach Brown got a few.”
Brown and Morris both came up big after both played inconsistently — or worse — in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Neither started in Tuesday’s win over Southern Nazarene. Both came off the bench Saturday and together they gave the Shockers the veteran performance needed to win on the road.
“We definitely tapped into our potential a little bit on the road,” Morris said. “Lately, I’ve been trying to lock into everything. I feel like I haven’t been as consistent as I should be in the last six, seven games. Me locking in and having a different mindset is key.”