An 81-79 overtime loss to Temple at the Liacouras Center on Thursday night put a damper on a standout night for Wichita State senior center Shaquille Morris, who became the 46th player in program history and just the eighth in coach Gregg Marshall’s tenure to score 1,000 career points.
Morris was the game’s biggest offensive force, posting a game-high 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting and adding nine rebounds. In his last three games, Morris has scored 63 points — the highest three-game scoring stretch of his career.
“I thought he was tremendous,” Marshall said. “Thank goodness we had him on our side.”
Morris’ consistency has picked up this season — he’s averaging 14.8 points in American Athletic Conference play — and he’s been at his best the last three games. Morris is averaging 21 points and shooting better than 68 percent.
Why? Because Morris has eliminated mid-range shots from his shot chart, been more selective on three-pointers, and started dominating inside by taking advantage of his 280-pound frame in the post.
Per Synergy, 27 of Morris’ 32 two-point attempts have come at the rim and he is finishing on 81 percent of those shots (22 of 27) the past three games. He took more jumpers against Temple (Morris had a pair of threes), but he also scored 14 points in the paint and made seven of eight shots there.
“When he is focused and ready to go, he’s a problem,” WSU’s Austin Reaves said. “That’s what we’ve got for these last three games and hopefully it will continue over.”
After WSU suffered back-to-back losses to SMU and Houston, Morris said his teammates came to him and expected him to be a constant force in the post. It’s a challenge Morris has taken to heart, as he’s responded with his best scoring stretch of his career.
“My teammates, they really want me to lead and be a dominant force on the court,” Morris said. “They give me the ball as much as they can and when you get a feeling like that, you’ve got to play that role. I love that they trust me with that. We all trust each other.”
Morris’ growing leadership and maturity were on display following the stunning defeat for Wichita State, as its players had to navigate through Temple students storming the court following the upset win. According to Reaves, the fifth-year senior spoke to the team and urged them to keep their heads held high and be ready to bounce back Tuesday in Memphis.
“As soon as the buzzer goes off, that’s the final score,” Morris said. “It’s onto the next. You can’t hang your head too much. That’s what I learned when Fred (VanVleet) and Ron (Baker) and all of those guys were here. You have to keep everybody’s heads up.”