You’ve had an entire weekend to celebrate what could have been a Shocker rebirth last Friday when Wichita State pulled off a thrilling 83-80 victory over Providence at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Md.
Markis McDuffie stole the headlines with his career-high 32 points and six three-pointers, and Samajae Haynes-Jones was superb with 15 points and a career-high eight assists.
But besides those gaudy numbers, there were other plays that maybe didn’t show up as prominently (or at all) in the box score that allowed the Shockers to win.
Here are five that stuck out to me:
1. Burton hustles back for the charge
The situation: 3:50 left in the second half with WSU up 76-69
This is a moment that many Shocker fans will remember going from “No, no, no!” to “Yes, yes, yes!”
The sequence started with Haynes-Jones trying to create something late in the shot clock. He drove baseline and then whipped a pass to Morris Udeze that went through his hands and started a run-out for Providence with only freshman Jamarius Burton ahead of the pack for WSU.
I’ve seen so many basketball players in this situation — tracking back alone in transition — that take the easy way out: feebly swiping at the ball for a steal as they run by. But that’s not what Gregg Marshall preaches. He preaches defenders to guard the basketball and that’s exactly what Burton does here.
Burton sprinted back to get a few steps ahead of Providence’s Isaiah Jackson, then planted his feet just inside the free-throw line. It takes some nerve to attempt to take a charge with a 6-foot-6, 225-pound player barreling toward you, but Burton stood his ground, absorbs the impact and was rewarded with a charge call.
Just like that, WSU turned a sure negative into a positive.
2. Torres and McDuffie don’t give up
The situation: 10:02 left in the second half with WSU up 65-56
This play was recalled specifically by Marshall, who said after the game it was “one of my favorite“ and “a winning play by my book.”
It started when Erik Stevenson picked up a steal and started what appeared to be an automatic two points for the Shockers. But Stevenson attempted a reverse layup to avoid the incoming Providence defender and missed badly. “It was a freshman play,” Marshall said.
But McDuffie and Ricky Torres didn’t stop when Stevenson streaked ahead. They heard Marshall’s cries to not assume anything and they followed Stevenson down the court. Sure enough, their hustle was rewarded. McDuffie was there to pressure the rebound and tipped the ball right to Torres for the easy layup, the only basket of his brief WSU career.
“Unless you’re a coach, you don’t appreciate that play,” Marshall said. “That was a winning basketball play. If we miss that, then all of a sudden we go, ‘How did we let that opportunity go?’ But Ricky and his hustle lays it in.”
3. Defense forces a shot-clock violation
The situation: 0:23 left in the first half with WSU up 41-39
WSU’s defense delivered five straight empty possessions from Providence to close out the first half, as the Shockers capitalized with a 10-0 run to take a 44-39 halftime lead. The most impressive stop was WSU’s final when its 2-3 zone forced the Friars into a shot-clock violation.
Good rotations in the zone by Dexter Dennis, Torres and Stevenson stalled Providence’s offense from really attacking until 12 seconds were left on the shot clock. That’s when Providence’s David Duke attempted to get to the rim. Stevenson walled him off and Dennis took away his dump-off look by sliding down on the block.
That forced Duke to pass to the corner, where a reluctant Maliek White, a career 31-percent three-point shooter, stood. White passed up on the open look before Dennis closed in on him and forced him to dribble to the wing. With 2 seconds left on the shot clock, White was forced into a deep, contested three that missed the rim.
After only playing zone defense for five percent of its possessions last season, WSU has already turned to zone about a third of the time this season. This possession showed how the Shockers’ athleticism and length around the perimeter can make the zone effective.
4. Two freshmen handle the pressure
The situation: 3:07 left in the second half with WSU up 76-72
WSU was in full control, up 74-61, until Providence slapped on full-court pressure and reeled off an 11-2 rally that trimmed WSU’s lead to 76-72 with more than three minutes left.
The Shockers could have gone into panic mode with the lead slipping away. Instead, a pair of freshmen kept their cool to break Providence’s pressure and restore confidence.
The play started with an inbounds pass to Stevenson along the sideline in front of Providence’s bench, exactly where the Friars wanted it so their 1-2-1-1 trapping press could go to work. Stevenson was quickly swarmed by a double-team and his two closest options were taken away. It was an easy situation for a freshman to panic and waste a timeout or commit a turnover.
Instead, Stevenson found Burton on a cross-court pass. Again, some freshmen could have done the easy thing: pass halfcourt and hold the ball. But Burton recognized Stevenson’s pass had bent Providence’s defense out of shape and given WSU a numbers advantage. He went into attack mode, driving past one defender, drawing another away from the rim and then flipping it off to McDuffie under the basket for the easy two.
5. Stevenson uses extendo arm for block
The situation: 1:49 left in the second half with WSU up 78-72
Providence’s Alpha Diallo nearly matched McDuffie bucket for bucket in the game, as he scored 27 points with five three-pointers.
Diallo thought he was about to stroke in his sixth three of the game when Providence sucked in WSU’s zone defense and he received a kick-out on the wing with no one in front of him. Diallo had made five of seven shots from distance and a make there would have made it a one-possession game.
But Stevenson saved the day. The freshman actually had both feet in the lane when the pass was made and he was still seven feet out when Diallo caught the pass. But Stevenson took two giant strides, planted and used incredible extension to tip Diallo’s shot off target.
It was a drastic swing in the game. Providence went from having an open shot for its best shooter to make it a one-possession game to Stevenson swatting it away and WSU’s defense ultimately coming away with the stop to preserve the six-point lead.