It is hard to tell when Wichita State guard Conner Frankamp is upset. Or happy. He plays basketball without changing expression.
Markis McDuffie sits close enough to Frankamp to tell.
“He was stressing… when he started playing, missing shots,” McDuffie said. “He was shaking his head, getting real mad. Sitting on the bench mad. Then he started lighting it up.”
That part of Frankamp’s season, the part where he missed a few shots, seems long ago. On Wednesday, Missouri State coaches yelled “shooter, shooter” when he touched the ball, proof the scouting report on him is current.
Frankamp is 13 of 25 from three-point range in his past five games and averaging 9.5 points. McDuffie, a freshman forward, is shooting 60 percent from the field in Missouri Valley Conference games and averaging 9.8 points. McDuffie scored a season-high 16 points in the 78-62 win at Missouri State. Frankamp added 14 to match his high, set in the previous game at Southern Illinois.
Together, they are a scoring punch off the bench that no other MVC team can match.
“I’m trying to be a game-changer,” McDuffie said. “We’re trying to take the pressure of Ron (Baker) and Fred (VanVleet). We want to make it easier for them, make an impact so teams have to guard all of us, not just them.”
Frankamp, a sophomore, attributes his surge to a simple one — playing time. When he first suited up for WSU on Dec. 9, it had been 21 months since his previous game.
“It’s becoming a lot more clear,” he said. “I just hadn’t played for so long when I first started playing. I’m trying to take my shots when I’m open and not force anything.”
That sense of place is helped by consistent playing time, the kind he didn’t enjoy at Kansas as a freshman in 2013-14.
He played 14 or more minutes in nine straight games this season, topped by 25 at Missouri State. At Kansas, he played double-digit minutes in two consecutive games but never a third. He’s played 20-plus minutes three times at WSU, a level he reached once at Kansas, in the NCAA Tournament.
For the season, Frankamp is averaging 8.0 points and shooting 42.9 percent (18 of 42) from three-point range; McDuffie is at 8.1 and 39.4 (13 of 33). There is one other reserve in the MVC who averages eight or more points while making 39 percent or better from three-point range — Evansville’s Mislav Brzoja.
Even among WSU coach Gregg Marshall’s famously deep teams, David Kyles is the lone player to average more than eight points off the bench — 8.5 in 2011-12.
Add center Anton Grady, a former starter who is averaging 7.6 points in five MVC games, and Marshall knows his bench can keep the Shockers scoring pace.
“Offensively, we don’t go down at all,” Marshall said. “In fact, we might be as dangerous offensively with the second team. They’ve got to maintain the rebounding and defensive intensity.”
Headed downtown — The lure of Intrust Bank Arena continues to pay off big for the Shockers. This season, they played Utah there and earned the best win of the season in front of a sell-out crowd of 15,004.
In 2017, WSU will play Oklahoma at Intrust Bank Arena. The two-season series, which starts next season on Dec. 10 at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, represents another scheduling breakthrough. The Sooners, ranked No. 2 nationally this week, are the first Big 12 team to schedule WSU since a two-game series with Texas Tech in 2008 and 2009.
“That’s the way folks want to do it,” Marshall said. “A lot of them would prefer to play at Intrust, for whatever reason.”
From 2008-09 to 2012-13, WSU played one regular-season home game against an opponent from the group now known as the Power Five — Texas Tech in 2009. Tennessee played at Intrust Bank Arena in 2013-14, followed by Alabama at Koch Arena and the Big East’s Seton Hall in 2014-15.
It hasn’t been that good for WSU since 2000-01, when Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Washington visited then-Levitt Arena in a three-week span.
When Oklahoma feels secure enough to schedule the Shockers, few schools should feel out-of-range for the future. If scheduling was a 10 on the scale of headaches a few years ago, Marshall now rates it no higher than a 7.
“It’s still difficult, but every year we seem to have another program such as Oklahoma step up and say, ‘We’d like to play you,’ ” he said. “Alabama, Tennessee, Utah… Seton Hall was a good series for us. So those are happening, and I don’t know exactly why that is, but you’d have to surmise (WSU’s success) as to what’s causing that to be the case.”
For 2016-17, WSU would like use the downtown arena to start another prominent home-and-home series.
WSU will play at Colorado State on Dec. 3 in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge Series. Saint Louis, Tulsa and South Dakota State are scheduled to visit Koch Arena. The Shockers play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November in the Bahamas and are part of a field that includes Louisville, Michigan State, VCU, Baylor, LSU, Saint John’s and Old Dominion.
Health update — WSU center Bush Wamukota returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s game at Missouri State with back pain.
Marshall said Wamukota can play as long as he can tolerate the pain.
Freshman guard Landy Shamet, who had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot in late November, is out of his walking boot and continuing to rehab the injury. He is targeted to return to full health in mid-February, around which point a decision on playing or saving a season for a medical redshirt would take place.
Off and running — WSU’s track and field teams placed third at the Kansas Triangular in Lawrence on Friday.
Kansas State won the meet with 254 points, followed by Kansas (234) and WSU (203).
WSU freshman Jared Belardo, from Leavenworth, won the triple jump (51 feet, 11 inches) and the long jump (24-7). Taylor Goldsmith set a school record while winning the weight throw with a toss of 68-1 3/4. For the women, Sidney Hirsch won the 3,000 meters (10 minutes, 0.90 seconds) and Rebekah Topham won the mile (4:58.48).