Wichita State’s big-man rotation is in its third format of this season. Perhaps this is the one that works best.
Centers Shaq Morris and Anton Grady combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds in last week’s 98-69 win over Nevada. They made 8 of 10 shots and 5 of 8 free throws, giving WSU an offensive presence often lacking this season. Morris and Grady are on call again Monday against New Mexico State, a fierce rebounding team, in WSU’s final non-conference game.
New Mexico State (7-5) out-rebounded 11 of its opponents, seven by 15 or more. Seven times the Aggies grabbed 15 or more offensive rebounds.
“They’re really big and they’re tenacious on the glass,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They’ve got a lot of size and athleticism and they go for the ball.”
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Marshall said has not decided if center Bush Wamukota, suspended for the Nevada game due to an academic issue, will play on Monday. Even if he decides to end the suspension, back stiffness continues to be an issue for Wamukota.
“His back has been bothering him a little bit, but he’s fighting through it in practice,” Marshall said.
Morris and Grady, as the win over Nevada demonstrated, give WSU its best offensive punch. Grady sat out four games after suffering a spinal concussion, which prompted sophomore center Rauno Nurger to end redshirt plans and produced a three-man rotation with Morris, Wamukota and Nurger dividing time.
With Grady back and Morris playing effectively, that duo grabbed most of the center minutes in the past two games.
WSU (6-5) shot a season-high 51.1 percent against Nevada, in part because Morris and Grady forced the defense to guard them. They made decisive, aggressive moves to the basket to score and draw fouls. For a second straight game, WSU went to Morris quickly and he scored the game’s first four points.
When guys demand the ball and have a presence down there … I know it helps me a ton,”
“When guys demand the ball and have a presence down there … I know it helps me a ton,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said after beating Nevada. “Shaq set the tone, again, and then Anton was able to come in and get some baskets down there, one on one. With all our movement, they weren’t able to help much.”
Grady played 16 minutes against Seton Hall in his return and 18 against Nevada.
“I’m feeling good and I enjoy being out there with those guys,” he said. “Basketball is a rhythm sport, so once you get back you get in the flow of things. As hard as you practice, it still can’t mimic game time, so you’ve just got to get back in, get your flow of reps going and just get the feel of the game.”
The parade of talented big men opposing the Shockers — Iowa’s Adam Woodbury, UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman, Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado — continues Monday.
New Mexico State sophomore Pascal Siakam (6-foot-9, 230 pounds), the Western Athletic Conference preseason Player of the Year, owns a nation-leading 11 double-doubles. He scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s 85-70 loss at No. 23 Baylor. He also boasts a 24-point, 23-rebound, 5-block effort in a 73-59 win over Texas-El Paso.
Last season, playing on a senior-dominated team, Siakam averaged 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. He played his first college game in a 71-54 loss to WSU at Koch Arena and scored seven points.
This season, the Aggies run almost everything through Siakam and guard Ian Baker. Siakam has made 119 of New Mexico State’s 346 baskets. His 99 foul shots are almost twice as many as WSU leader Ron Baker’s 52.
“(Siakam) appears to be a legit NBA player, and that was not my recollection from the game last year,” Marshall said. “Obviously, there’s been some big-time improvement.”
New Mexico State at Wichita State
- When: 7 p.m. Monday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Records: New Mexico State 7-6, WSU 6-5
- Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
- TV: Cox Kansas
New Mexico State at Wichita State
New Mexico State (7-6): The Aggies are coming off an 85-70 loss at No. 23 Baylor in which they turned the ball over 22 times and forced eight turnovers. In their six losses, they are minus-29 in turnovers.… Baker shoots 38.8 percent from three-point range and 83 percent from the line. He scored 26 points and made 6 of 7 threes in a mid-December win at Texas-El Paso, also handing out five assists and not committing a turnover.… The Aggies largely stick to an eight-man rotation with G Braxton Huggins averaging 4.5 points off the bench. C Tanveer Bhullar, a 7-foot-3, 333-pound Canadian, averages 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds. He did not play against WSU last season due to an injury. … Siakam is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and is 70 of 99 from the line.
Wichita State (6-5): The Shockers are protecting a 37-game home win streak (three at Intrust Bank Arena) and a 36-game non-conference home win streak (five at Intrust Bank Arena).… The Shockers defeated the Aggies 71-54 at Koch Arena last season, forcing 20 turnovers. WSU went 0 for 11 from three-point range, but made 31 of 63 shots and held New Mexico State to 16-of-40 shooting.… WSU leads the series 15-14 and has won three in a row. The teams met twice yearly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1973-83.… Freshman G Ty Taylor, who missed last week’s game with an injured right shoulder, is back at practice and available to play.