Wichita State’s defense is on pace to finish in Ken Pomeroy’s top 20 in Defensive Adjusted Efficiency for the sixth straight season.
But it’s not because the Shockers are slowing down opposing stars.
Through eight games, five opposing players have scored 25 or more points against WSU. For reference, that only happened six times in 36 games last season and eight combined times in the three seasons prior to that.
“I guess some people just want to play their big game against us,” WSU senior Zach Brown said. “They can have their game, as long as in the end we end up with the win.”
It’s not like WSU is allowing role players to go off. California’s Don Coleman (35 points), South Dakota State’s Mike Daum (31), Marquette’s pair of Andrew Rousey (26) and Markus Howard (25), and Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson (25) are all star players.
And the Shockers have consistently won games when another team’s scorer pops off. In the last two seasons, WSU is 9-1 when an opponent scores at least 25 points.
Does the spate of high-scoring opponents bother WSU coach Gregg Marshall as he prepares for Saturday’s showdown between No. 6 WSU (7-1) and Oklahoma State (7-1) in Stillwater?
“Not as long as we have more points at the end of the game than the other team,” Marshall said. “It’s a team game. It’s not an individual game. I don’t care who scores the points, as long as we have more points than they do. That’s what’s important.”
After Daum dropped 31 on WSU in Tuesday’s game, WSU guard Landry Shamet was asked if it bothered him.
“You know to an extent, guys like that are going to get theirs,” Shamet said. “But as a competitor, you take that personally. If that’s your match-up, you don’t want them giving you 30. You don’t want to be a sidenote on that 30. But at the end of the day, Mike Daum is a pro. He’s an NBA guy.
“It’s just taking it personal on that end to get stops.”
Perhaps the player most bothered about the trend is Brown, the team’s defensive stopper. Long and athletic at 6-foot-6, Brown is a versatile defender who typically guards the other team’s best player.
“It bothers me, definitely,” Brown said. “People just see how many they score in the end and then everybody looks at me because I’m the defensive stopper guy. A scorer is going to score. If you put up a lot of shots, you’re bound to put up numbers. It’s my job to make it tough on them.”
WSU opponents are attempting more three-pointers than ever before, as 44 percent of opponent’s shots this season have been from beyond the arc. WSU has held opponents to 32.1 percent on three-pointers, although that number raises to 35 percent if you take away Savannah State’s 13-of-55 performance on Nov. 28.
While WSU may be giving up a lot of points to one player, its defense has remained effective this season because it’s limiting the production of the supporting cast.
The Shockers are 35th in the country in defensive effective field-goal percentage and the fourth-best team at defensive rebounding, grabbing nearly 80 percent of opponent’s misses.
And most importantly to WSU, it keeps winning.
“If they’re not winning with a 30-ball, then they can have a 30-ball every night if I care,” Brown said. “To us, it’s all about winning.”