Ninety minutes before the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet put on his headphones and worked on his shooting at Koch Arena.
He moved around the three-point arc calmly, making jumper after jumper and foreshadowed WSU’s 89-67 win over South Dakota State on Thursday.
The return to the familiar —listening to his pre-game mix of Drake and others — helped Shamet get back on track after 12 days away from Koch Arena. He made 6 of 10 three-pointers and scored a career-high 21 points.
“When we play at Koch, I have time to do what I like to do,” he said. “Any time you can get extra shots up, especially before a game, in the atmosphere you’re going to be playing in, it kind of gets you ready to go.”
WSU (10-3) closed non-conference play with a methodical dismantling of South Dakota State’s zone defenses. Faced with a changing array, the Shockers moved the ball crisply and found plenty of open three-pointers, especially in the corners. They made 15 of 34, matching the school record for makes and setting a season-high for attempts.
South Dakota State (7-8) is committed to zone defenses, so coach T.J. Otzelberger did what he could by switching them often and trying to break WSU’s rhythm. The Shockers possess too many good shooters — Thursday’s accuracy raised their season three-point percentage to 37.6 — for that approach to succeed most nights. The Jackrabbits wanted the zone to lure the Shockers into a bad shooting night from long distance and keep them away from the lane.
“We have a lot of respect for their ability to attack the paint,” Otzelberger said. “We felt like we needed to build our defense with our zone inside-out and kind of roll the dice with them shooting the basketball.”
WSU can put four good shooters on the floor with most lineups and that played out Thursday. The zone couldn’t cover them all. Markis McDuffie made 2 of 4 threes and scored 17 points, one off his career high. Conner Frankamp made 5 of 9 shots and scored 13 points. Center Darral Willis made 7 of 8 shots and scored 14 points.
The Shockers played without center Shaq Morris, sidelined by a right thigh contusion. Zach Brown returned to the starting lineup and his play helped the Shockers pull away in the first half with good defense on SDSU center Mike Daum.
Shamet, a redshirt freshman, entered the game shooting 31.9 percent from three-point range and 36.8 percent overall.
“He’s a good shooter and he’s been a good shooter in practice for a couple years now,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He just hasn’t made them in games.”
Shamet’s shooting problems followed him everywhere. Those expectations are nothing new for him after coming to WSU as a four-star recruit from Park Hill (Mo.) High. The excitement for his skills continued early last season when he showed advanced contributions for a freshman, until a stress fracture in his left foot ended his season in November.
“It happens, and I’ve been catching a lot of heat,” he said. “I hear about it. As a shooter and a player, my job is to remain confident and consistent and not let words or one missed shot or two missed shots or six missed shots affect my mind-set of being a shooter and taking open looks.”
South Dakota State (7-8) tried to keep pace with Daum and an equal enthusiasm for three-pointers. The Shockers threw multiple defenders at Daum, the Summit League’s preseason Player of the Year, and made him work for his points. The Shockers recorded eight steals, forced 12 turnovers and kept the nation’s No. 3 foul shooting team from keeping the game close at the line.
Daum scored 20 points for the Jackrabbits on 8-of-15 shooting. He is a 90-percent foul shooter and the Shockers limited him to two free throws on three attempts. McDuffie, Rauno Nurger, Rashard Kelly and Darral Willis all took turns guarding Daum and the net result favored WSU.
“He’s definitely going to be in the NBA,” McDuffie said. “We just tried to contain him. I think all the points he scored were tough shots.”
South Dakota State made 10 of 24 threes. WSU grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 18 second-chance points, 16 more than the Jackrabbits.
Brown took on Daum early and helped turn the game. He drew a charge from Daum, moving quickly to cut off his baseline drive, for Daum’s second foul. After Daum’s three, guarded by Brown, came up short, Brown sank a three-pointer for a 33-20 lead.
WSU missed its first four three-pointers and made 7 of its next 14. Once the three-pointers dropped, SDSU’s zone defense had to move, which opened gaps for the Shockers to drive.
“Every time there was a dead ball, they were changing up their zones,” Marshall said. “We organized, we recognized and we attacked.”
Shamet made 3 of 4 threes and scored 11 points in the first to play a major role in loosening the zone. McDuffie also scored 11 points, six on corner threes. Daishon Smith threaded a pass through the defenders to Rauno Nurger for a dunk and a 26-16 lead. Frankamp helped dissect the zone with four assists and his drive for a layup gave WSU a 39-24 lead.
The Shockers maintained control in the second half. After SDSU cut the lead to 44-37, the Shockers answered with an 8-0 run on threes by Shamet and Brown and a dunk by McDuffie. WSU started the half on a 15-7 run.