Rebounding supplies much of Wichita State’s basketball identity, proves that the Shockers are working hard and allows them to demoralize opponents with hustle and strength.
The past two opponents won the rebounding battle against the Shockers and nobody wanted to practice after a third time.
“We’re tired hearing about it, how we’re not rebounding,” forward Darius Carter said. “We’ve been working on that and working on having a better mindset about it.”
No. 15 Wichita State, after a sleepy, ugly first half, powered past Bradley 63-43 on Wednesday at Koch Arena. The second-half effort looked more like the usual Shockers. They crashed the boards for rebounds. They dove on the court for loose balls, dunked and generally had their way with the offensively challenged Braves.
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“I didn’t recognize that team, that effort, that execution, that determination,” Marshall said. “We’re missing layups. We’re making bad decisions. You can see what we can do in the second half.”
Drake — of all teams — out-rebounded WSU in the Missouri Valley Conference opener. Illinois State did it again Sunday. To make matters worse, George Washington and Hawaii matched WSU in the Diamond Head Classic. That’s four straight game the Shockers failed to win their coveted statistical battle. That they won three of those games is little consolation and this week’s practices reflected that reality with 2-on-2 rebounding drills.
“If someone doesn’t get a defensive rebound, the whistle is blown and you’re going to hear about it,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “A lot of bumps and bruises.”
The Shockers (13-2, 3-0 MVC) out-rebounded Bradley 41-28, 12-6 on offense. As part of its second-half run, WSU out-rebounded Bradley 25-12.
“The rebounding in the second half was appalling,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said.
WSU defeated Bradley (6-10, 1-2) for the 10th straight time, its longest win streak in the 136-game series. Bradley stayed close with a scrappy first half. It lacked the firepower in the second half. The Braves shot 34.8 percent for the game, 20 percent in the second half. They missed 12 of their first 13 shots after halftime and shot 4 of 22 in the half.
“We just went stone-cold in the second half,” Ford said.
The foul line offered no help — Bradley missed 10 of its 17 free throws and continued a season-long deficit at the line. WSU made 15 of 22 free throws. Carter led WSU with 19 points, making 9 of 14 foul shots. Baker added 12 points and Shaq Morris had 10 points and seven rebounds. Fred VanVleet played 23 minutes and handed out nine assists with one turnover.
Ka’Darryl Bell led Bradley with 11 points. The Braves failed to break 50 points for the sixth time.
The Shockers didn’t play with satisfactory energy in the first half and missing 17 shots contributed to that malaise. Marshall listened outside the locker room at halftime to see which players spoke up. He heard junior guard Fred VanVleet and little else, so he broke in to demand more energy.
“We didn’t have much life,” Carter said. “Everybody was kind of sitting around. Fred, as one of our best leaders, he told us that we needed to step up and get some energy in the game. We came out and did what they said.”
It helped when shots started to fall. It helped when the crowd came to life. Marshall helped by energetically protesting a charging call on VanVleet. Those factors combined to push WSU on a 22-6 run in the second half after it trailed by one point at halftime.
Baker made back-to-back threes to put WSU up 37-32 and force the Braves to call a timeout. Things got worse for Bradley, which kept bricking shots and fouling.
Baker’s layup made it 39-32. A three-point play followed by four free throws by Carter gave WSU a 46-34 lead. The run expanded WSU’s lead to 49-34. Baker and Carter both scored seven points during the run and Morris continued his resurgence with rebounding and blocked shots.
VanVleet picked up his third foul early in the second half on a charge, a call that sent Marshall stomping down the sideline. An illegal screen call, one of several made against both teams, on Rashard Kelly soon after angered Marshall again and he yelled at referee James Durham until Durham walked away. Marshall continued the conversation with referees Keith Kimble and Brad Ferrie.
In the first half, WSU missed 10 of its first 12 shots, some guarded, some well-earned bricks. Bradley missed six of its first nine shots and committed four turnovers.
The Braves led 7-4 with 11:55 remaining. Then the defenses loosened a bit. WSU scored on three straight possessions to tie it 11-all. Bradley’s Auston Barnes responded with a three-pointer. WSU took its first lead on Cotton’s floater at 15-14. A three-point play by VanVleet and two free throws by Baker put WSU back in front 20-19.
Morris’ basket gave WSU its biggest lead at 25-23, but he missed the foul shot and Barnes made his second three of the first half to regain the lead.
Bradley led 28-27 at halftime after making 4 of 11 three-pointers. WSU stayed close by making 5 of 8 fouls shots. Bradley didn’t score from the line. The Braves made 10 of 24 shots, but committed seven turnovers. WSU made 10 of 27 shots and grabbed four offensive rebounds.