Hear Gregg Marshall’s biggest regret following worst loss of his WSU career
The stretch is up to a full hour now, 60 straight minutes of some of the worst men’s basketball that has ever been played under Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.
Since building a 31-point halftime lead over Baylor, WSU’s up-and-down offense has cratered to a new low. After staving off embarrassment to hold on and beat the Bears, WSU didn’t have such a cushion in Saturday’s 80-48 thumping against Oklahoma. It was the single-worst offensive performance by WSU in the Marshall era.
WSU has been outscored by 53 points, 128-75, in its last three halves. An offense that was once pumping out an above-average 1.08 points per possession has now sputtered to 0.68 points per possession over its last 110 possessions. For reference, the worst offense in Division I, Delaware State, scores 0.74 points per possession.
It’s led to some soul-searching the last three days from the Shockers (4-4), who must snap out of its offensive funk in order to defeat a Jacksonville State (5-3) team riding the momentum of a five-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game at Koch Arena.
“At some point you have to care,” Marshall said on his radio show on Monday night. “You have to care as much or more than the coaching staff. You have to care about the success and failure of our program and our team. There were times when you had to question the want-to (in the OU game).”
Monday’s film study, the first since Saturday’s game, was a tough watch for the players.
“It was a little demoralizing to see because it looked like we don’t know what we’re doing out there as a group,” WSU senior Markis McDuffie said. “That’s on me. I have to do a better job telling my guys where to be, even though it’s hard in the pace of the game. The best thing we can do is communicate and that’s what we’re not doing right now.”
What the players saw on film didn’t resemble anything like what they experience in practice every day.
“It was the spacing, it was the ball movement, it was moving without the ball,” WSU freshman Dexter Dennis said. “Everything was bad. Really bad.”
Marshall joked after the OU loss that he didn’t know whether to burn the tape or break it down. He’s still teaching accountability to nine first-year players on the team, and Monday’s film review was difficult by intent.
“Seeing is believing,” Marshall said. “Sometimes when you’re the performer, you’re not watching your performance. But later on when you see it, you see how bad it is, maybe it will jolt you back to reality.”
WSU’s offense has pieced together more good halves than bad ones this season — just not lately.
The offense flows when WSU can find McDuffie in rhythm, which allows him to score at all three levels. It flows when Samajae Haynes-Jones harnesses his quickness and uses it as a destructive force, and when freshmen Erik Stevenson and Dexter Dennis start stroking it from the outside, and when Jaime Echenique and Morris Udeze finish strong inside.
Marshall’s offense depends on crisp passing, moving with a purpose without the ball and good screening.
But when all three of those things are absent, like they were against OU — WSU recorded a season low for passes completed in the halfcourt and settled for 44 jump shots, many of them contested — the offense sputters.
“We’re not getting those easy baskets that we usually get in our system,” McDuffie said. “I think these guys are still learning to trust it. Once everyone trusts it, we’re going to get back to our bread and butter. Right now we’re not finding any of the bread and butter.”
But the thing that bothers Marshall the most right now is that neither Haynes-Jones or junior Ricky Torres have assumed control of the team on the court.
When WSU’s offense is in disarray, Marshall wants his point guards to be the ones to organize the players on the floor. When a set doesn’t produce an open look, it’s up to the point guard to break down his defender and collapse the defense to either set up himself or a teammate for a basket.
Right now, none of that is happening. Haynes-Jones is shooting 33 percent on nearly 13 shots per game, while Torres is shooting 24 percent and has yet to make a three-pointer (0 for 16) this season.
“We honestly don’t have a floor general right now that understands what we’re trying to accomplish,” Marshall said on his radio show. “Somebody is going to have to be a leader on the floor other than me and orchestrate our team and get us some spacing, some ball movement, some player movement. We’re just going to have to keep working on it.”