On Sunday during practice, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall asked his reserves who wanted to play, who wanted to step up and earn a black jersey with the starters.
On Monday, he got some answers. The 11th-ranked Shockers defeated Loyola Marymount 80-53 in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic at the Sheriff Center. WSU (9-1) plays in Tuesday’s semifinal, two wins from a third straight holiday tournament title.
WSU’s veterans did all the expected things. Darius Carter scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, setting an all-out tone on the offensive boards. Tekele Cotton scored 12 points and chased Loyola Marymount guard Evan Payne through an Evansville-like thicket of screens. Fred VanVleet handed out seven assists without a turnover.
The newcomers showed some contributions that made Marshall feel better about his depth. Freshman Rashard Kelly made his first start, replacing junior Evan Wessel, who is sidelined by a sprained right ankle. Freshman guard Corey Henderson Jr. came off the bench to make two threes. Junior center Bush Wamukota grabbed two offensive rebounds. Freshman Zach Brown showed his athletic ability with a three-point play over and through a defender in the second half.
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"We got 15 guys some valuable playing time," Marshall said. "We were able to spare our starters and our top guys from playing too many minutes."
WSU made 11 of 24 three-pointers and eight Shockers made at least one. WSU out-rebounded the Lions 32-19 and scored 22 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds.
"I noticed that they weren't really boxing out too much," Carter said. "I was crashing the boards. There were a lot of open opportunities."
Payne led the Lions (3-7) with 15 points. WSU’s defense worked to keep the ball out of his hands and held him six points under his average on 3-of-6 shooting and 9 of 10 from the line. The Lions made 18 of 38 shots, but missed all five three-pointers.
“Coach always preaches defense,” Henderson said. “I wanted to come in and, first, do that. Then, making shots, that’s all second.”
Marshall gave his veterans most of the second half off, an ideal situation for a team missing a starter and facing three games in four days. WSU started the game with a 17-4 run and started the second half with a 16-2 run, opening the door for plenty of playing time and Marshall sent walk-ons Zach Bush, John Robert Simon and Jared Walker in for some serious ESPNU time with more than nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Lions absorbed WSU’s first-half run and rallied a bit. WSU’s second-half burst turned the game into a rout quickly.
The Shockers opened the second half with an 16-2 run, one that kept getting better with each play. Carter made the second three of his career for a 45-25 lead. Cotton dunked after a WSU trap produced a steal. Kelly stole a floating pass and drove for a dunk and a 51-25 lead. After a timeout, Marshall went to his reserves with 15:04 remaining and Cotton made a jumper for a 53-25 lead.
The Lions finally scored again on a dunk by Ayodeji Egbeyemi with 14:13 remaining.
WSU led 6-4 and then outscored the Lions 15-2 by making 5 of 11 shots and forcing four turnovers in just under five minutes. The Shockers hit the Lions, with 11 newcomers on the roster, with a fierce attack on the glass and disrupted their offense to go up 21-6.
Carter overwhelmed the Lions in the first nine minutes, grabbing five offensive rebounds and scoring five points. Wamukota converted a three-point play and a follow shot to continue the rebounding dominance.
The Lions, however, didn’t fold. They cut WSU’s lead to 24-16 by scoring on five of six possessions. Their height kept WSU from scoring in the lane and Payne begn drawing fouls and getting to the line.
The Shockers finished the half with another run, started by Kelly’s dunk on a lob pass for a 29-16 lead. Henderson made his second three for a 32-18 lead. After a spectacular one-handed dunk, over Baker, by Payne, WSU ended the half on a 5-1 run to take a 37-23 halftime lead.
WSU out-rebounded the Lions 17-10 in the first half and scored 12 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.
No. 11 Wichita State at Hawaii
When: 8 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Sheriff Center, Honolulu
Records: WSU 9-1, UH 9-3
Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
Diamond Head Classic
George Washington 77, Ohio 49
Colorado 82, DePaul 68
Wichita State 80, Loyola Marymount 53
Hawaii 66, Nebraska 58
Ohio vs. DePaul, 1:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
George Washington vs. Colorado, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wichita State vs. Hawaii, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nebraska vs. Loyola Marymount, 10:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Third-place, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Championship, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)