VIDEO: Coach Marshall postgame vs New Mexico State
Mandated, organized February non-conference games brought Wichita State considerable pain under the label of the now-defunct BracketBusters.
On Monday, the Shockers played a more impromptu non-conference game and the change-of-pace worked. WSU rolled past New Mexico State 71-41 at Koch Arena to win its 37th straight non-conference home game two days after its first home loss since 2013.
The game was scheduled for Dec. 28 and postponed when snow kept New Mexico State from flying. The timing of the game opened up questions about fatigue and confidence so soon after Saturday’s loss to Northern Iowa.
Turns out, the timing was perfect for the Shockers.
“That was a good thing,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We certainly needed to play a game after Saturday. I didn’t know going on, a game like this, wedging it in.”
WSU (19-7) revved up its offense with more drives to the basket and the Aggies helped with frequent turnovers. The Shockers ended a nine-game win streak by New Mexico State (18-9), which last lost on Jan. 9.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies promised to help WSU’s NCAA resume by finishing strong, just like the BracketBuster series intended during its run from 2003-13. The Shockers played some good opponents during its run, which will most be remembered for close losses to George Mason and VCU.
New Mexico State entered the game with an RPI ranked No. 126. WSU needs victories to boost its resume, so much the better if the Aggies climb in the power rankings. While they play in the weak Western Athletic Conference, they might move up through sheer volume of wins.
“I understand the dynamics of this game and what it means and we’ll help the Shockers by going forward and winning as many games as we can,” Menzies said. “Hopefully, our RPI will end up under the 100 mark.”
Ron Baker led Wichita State with 13 points. Fred VanVleet added 12 points and seven assists. The Shockers finished with three turnovers, matching a season low, and didn’t commit their first until 8:19 remained in the game.
The Shockers forced 19 turnovers and scored 23 points off those turnovers. Much like last season’s 71-54 win, WSU negated New Mexico State’s height advantage by harassing passers and keeping the ball away from the lane.
New Mexico State’s 41 points represents WSU’s best defensive game since a 78-35 win over Missouri State last season.
“We knew last year our pressure really disrupted them,” Baker said. “It’s really hard to pass the ball into the post when you’ve got really good ball pressure on the wings.”
Sophomore forward Pascal Siakam led the Aggies with 17 points and 10 rebounds. WSU’s defense limited him to nine shots and he never got a chance to take over the game. Point guard Ian Baker finished with five turnovers and one assist.
“We threw balls to guys that hit our guys in two hands and we fumbled,” Menzies said. “That’s environment. That’s nerves. That’s the Shocker faithful. They probably get you five turnovers just on their presence.”
WSU ended the first half on a 21-6 run with VanVleet scoring eight straight points and Anton Grady six straight. Conner Frankamp contributed a baseline floater and ended the half with a long three-pointer for a 37-24 lead.
WSU held the Aggies scoreless for 7:50, a span in which they committed four turnovers and missed seven shots. The Shockers switched to a zone late in the half, to combat New Mexico State’s height, which helped slow the Aggies.
After leading by 13 at half, the Shockers boosted that lead to 26 midway through the second half.