A trip to East Carolina shouldn’t be intimidating.
After all, the Pirates (9-12, 2-7 American) have lost to low-majors like James Madison and High Point at Minges Coliseum this season.
But no road game can be taken for granted for Wichita State basketball this season. The Shockers have lost all six road games this season by a combined 101 points. They have yet to come closer than nine points against a team on the road, although all six road losses have come against top-100 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.
After winning two games at home last week, WSU’s next step in turning around its season requires a win on the road. That’s what the Shockers (10-11, 3-6 American) will be in search of Wednesday in a 6 p.m. game in Greenville, N.C. broadcast on ESPNews.
“We can’t look at anybody at the bottom of the standings because we’re in the bottom of the standings too,” Marshall said. “We have to treat each opponent with great respect and do our film study and our due diligence trying to take away some of their strengths. We haven’t played very well on the road. We just have to go out and try to play well on the road. The winning and losing will take care of itself, we just have to play well.”
The Shockers are scoring just 57.8 points per game and shooting 34.2 percent from the field and 25 percent on three-pointers on the road. WSU’s offense has been at its worst this season in road environments. Last week’s back-to-back wins may have pushed the memories of ugly road losses at South Florida and Connecticut to the back of minds, WSU is very much still aware of its struggles on the road.
“We all know as a group that we haven’t won a road game yet,” WSU senior Markis McDuffie said. “It’s my job to put it in these guys’ minds that we need this game on the road. I know with this team when things get chippy on the road, things tend to go south and we tend to go to a low point. We need to stay together because we’re getting a lot better right now. We have a big chance to show a lot of improvement in this next road game.”
While East Carolina is once again at the bottom of the conference standings, the Pirates have shown some fight in Joe Dooley’s first year as coach. ECU took advantage of a Cincinnati team overlooking them in the conference opener and handed the Bearcats their only loss to date, a 73-71 stunner in Greenville.
ECU freshman Jayden Gardner, a 6-6 post, is averaging 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Although undersized, Gardner’s explosion and pursuit of the ball has been effective against taller and older opponents. Shawn Williams and K.J. Davis are a pair of three-point snipers who are making a combined 3.3 three-pointers per game.
“That’s the next step for this team is playing well away from home,” Marshall said. “I’ll be real happy when we start and I think everybody else will. We have some positive momentum and that’s the next step now is to carry it over on the road.”
That positive momentum includes two wins at Koch Arena over SMU and Tulsa where the Shockers scored an average of 82 points. After a week of stagnant play on the road, the return home seemed to spark WSU’s offense and led to better ball and player movement.
Asked if Marshall did anything differently to create the spark, he laughed and shook his head.
“Not one thing has changed,” Marshall said. “It’s just playing at home they’re a little more comfortable. It’s the same guys, the same offense, the same coaching staff, the same system. They just have to figure out in their own way how to travel with that same mindset and ability on the road.”
Wichita State at East Carolina
Records: WSU 10-11, 3-6 AAC; ECU 9-12, 2-7 AAC
When: 6 p.m. CT Wednesday
Where: Minges Coliseum, Greenville, N.C.
Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
About Wichita State: This is the second meeting all-time between the two programs; WSU won last year’s series debut 95-60 at Minges Coliseum. Gregg Marshall is 4-0 against ECU with his Winthrop teams sweeping the Pirates in the mid-2000s... WSU has the conference’s leading scorer in senior Markis McDuffie, who is averaging 18.9 points. McDuffie was named last week’s AAC Player of the Week after moving into No. 24 all-time on WSU’s career scoring list... This will be a homecoming game of sorts for freshman Jamarius Burton, who is from nearby Charlotte. He was recently named the AAC Freshman of the Week after finishing with 13 assists and just three turnovers in last week’s games...The Shockers arrived in Greenville last season ranked No. 5 in the country with the country’s second-longest road winning streak. WSU heads to Greenville this season looking for its first road win of the season after losing six straight on the road... A win would push WSU back to .500 for the first time since Jan. 16 and tie its season-long winning streak of three games... WSU junior walk-on Eli Farrakhan was awarded a full scholarship for the spring 2019 semester... Sophomore center Asbjorn Midtgaard, who suffered a head injury in Saturday’s win over Tulsa, is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s tilt.
About East Carolina: ECU freshman Jayden Gardner is fifth in the AAC in scoring at 18.3 points and has nine 20-point games this season. He ranks fifth nationally in fouls drawn and his 9.3 rebounds per game rank second in the conference... First-year coach Joe Dooley was a 10-year assistant under Bill Self at Kansas from 2003-13 before guiding Florida Gulf Coast to five straight 20-win seasons... After shocking Cincinnati with a 73-71 win at Minges, ECU has lost six of its last seven games... East Carolina’s defense has held opponents to 31-percent three-point shooting, a top-50 mark nationally. The Pirates also rank in the top-100 in block and steal percentage on defense... ECU is 7-4 this season when it scores at least 70 points and 6-2 when it holds opponents under 70 points. In Dooley’s career, his teams are 131-43 when they hold opponents under 70 points.