Shockers survive Southern Miss rally to get a close win
Wichita State men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall addressed the media for around 10 minutes on Tuesday, the day before the Shockers are set to play Oral Roberts at Koch Arena.
WSU (6-4) is aiming for its fifth straight win at Koch Arena and its first three-game winning streak of the season against Oral Roberts (4-9). The 7:05 p.m. game will be broadcast on Cox YurView (Ch. 2022) and live-streamed on YurView.com.
Here were the five most important subjects Marshall touched on before Wednesday’s game:
1. Dexter Dennis ruled out for Wednesday’s game. The freshman guard sustained a concussion early in the second half of Saturday’s game against Southern Miss when a defender undercut him while he was in the air and he landed on his shoulders and head.
Dennis missed the final 17 minutes of WSU’s 63-60 win and Marshall said WSU has already ruled him out for Wednesday’s game against Oral Roberts.
“Dexter will miss definitely (Wednesday),” Marshall said. “I have no idea going into the weekend (Saturday at VCU), it’s just whenever he gets out of the protocol.
“He was over at my house (Monday) night and he was decorating a Christmas tree, so he can do that. But he’s still got to be baseline with all of the symptoms and then there’s the work back into activity.”
If Dennis doesn’t play at VCU on Saturday, he would have 12 days to recover before WSU plays its next game in the American Athletic Conference opener Jan. 3 at Memphis. Dennis has started six games for WSU and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game.
2. Marshall makes his first public comments on Chance Moore transferring. WSU announced on Monday that freshman Chance Moore, a 6-foot-7 wing from Louisville, is no longer part of the team and is seeking a mid-season transfer.
Moore appeared in just four games for WSU, scoring three points in 20 minutes. He stopped appearing in uniform after WSU’s win over Baylor on Dec. 1 and was not with the team for this past Saturday’s game against Southern Miss.
“I liked him as a young person and I hope he does well wherever he ends up,” Marshall said. “Obviously we had some disagreements on mostly playing time. If you guys hadn’t put the minutes played per game in the paper as much, he might still be here. He thought he should be playing more and our staff didn’t. We had some specific things we wanted him to do to play more and he just couldn’t come around to that. I wish him well, hope he does great and we’ll try to help him in any way.”
3. WSU wants to feel better about a win this time. While WSU did defeat Southern Miss 63-60 on Saturday, squandering a 17-point lead and having to win the game in the final minute left a sour taste in the mouths of Marshall and his players. Their body language and words afterward did not reflect a win.
Up against an overmatched opponent in Oral Roberts (4-9), WSU’s primary goal isn’t just to win on Wednesday.
“We need to feel good about ourselves,” Marshall said. “The way I always describe it is play against the game. How well can this team play for 40 minutes? How well can we defend, rebound, run the court, execute offensively, shoot it, shoot it from the line? No one will ever play the perfect game, but if you strive for perfection, oftentimes you achieve excellence. We would like a 40-minute, excellent performance.”
Marshall admitted that he has had to change the way he goes about demanding that excellence. He has invited this year’s team over to his house more than any other in his tenure at WSU.
He believes in order to coach the players the way they need to be coached, Marshall and his staff have to earn that trust and build those bonds through their time together off the court.
“We’ve really tried to pour into these young men and try to be as good as mentors and role models and counselors the best we can,” Marshall said. “We want to try to get to know them on a more personal level and let them know we’re here for them. We’re in this together and we’re backing them in every way. We love the individuals involved, but they have to grow. It just takes a different amount of time per player.”
The progression with one of the country’s most inexperienced rosters has predictably been up-and-down through the season’s first 10 games.
“There are times where I think they’re ahead of the pace, then there are times where I think they haven’t learned anything,” Marshall said. “It’s just the way it is when you multiply that by nine new ones.”
4. Former WSU walk-on now starting for Oral Roberts. Among the 11 players who departed last season’s team was former WSU walk-on Kaelen Malone, who originally transferred to Newman before accepting a scholarship to Oral Roberts.
Malone, a 6-foot point guard, has started seven games for Oral Roberts this season and averages 8.4 points and a team-high 4.2 assists in 25.5 minutes per game. Malone’s assist rate of 32.9 percent ranks No. 59 in the country, per KenPom.com.
Malone will likely be matched up against WSU senior Samajae Haynes-Jones at some point in the game, as the two practiced together as point guards last season.
“Super nice kid, I love Kaelen when he was here,” Marshall said. “I don’t know if he had any Division I offers when he came and decided to walk on here and he ends up with a Division I scholarship as a senior, so good for him. I’m proud of him.”
5. Rod Brown pushing for more playing time. Marshall has committed to playing a small-ball four this season with Markis McDuffie starting and Brown, a 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman, serving as his only backup. So far Brown has played sparingly, as he’s averaging just 7.2 minutes per game.
But that number should be going up if Brown continues to play the way he did in WSU’s 63-60 win over Southern Miss. Brown made an impact scoring on two offensive rebound tip-ins and playing solid defense in a six-minute performance that certainly made an impression on his coach.
“That was what I needed from him,” Marshall said. “He was the human super ball. He was running, he was bouncing, he was all over the place. He was using his athleticism and strength and his God-given abilities to a more beneficial way for our team. Getting two stick-backs, playing good defense, running in transition ... that was his best game.”