▪ Key statistics: Wichita State outscored the NCAA Division II Jaguars 36-12 in the paint and shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Its size advantage made up for several weak spots. Fifteen Shockers turnovers led to 22 Augusta points, 11 more than they scored off turnovers. WSU missed nine of 22 free throws to shoot 59.1 percent.
▪ How the game turned: The Shockers led 50-28 when coach Gregg Marshall subbed in five players, including newcomers Darral Willis and Daishon Smith. Smith lost Augusta guard Keshun Sherrill, who made two three-pointers and two free throws to cut WSU’s edge to 14 points.
That burst forced the Shockers to play it out and Sherrill almost made it hurt with 26 of his 33 points in the final 15:02 of the game.
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▪ Records: Exhibition game. WSU won its 22nd straight exhibition game, last losing to Athletes First in 2001.
▪ Rotation watch: Marshall rewarded his best practice players with starts: Rashard Kelly, Zach Brown, Landry Shamet, Rauno Nurger and Markis McDuffie.
That tells players that work habits are noticed and nobody is entitled to a starting spot. While the importance of starting can be overrated, you can be sure that players pay attention. Telling talented players such as Shaq Morris and Conner Frankamp that their teammates are better in practice encourages everybody to sharpen up.
Marshall said he and his assistant coaches listed the best practice players two weeks ago in a team meeting. The five starters showed up on the ballots.
“Those were the only five, so, the way I figured, those were the guys that deserved to start,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being every-day guys, working hard and trying to run the system, trying to be better teammates, being positive.”
Nurger stood out as the surprise of the group. He hasn’t started a game in his first two seasons.
“I love Rauno,” Shamet said. “He tries so hard, all the time, plays so hard. He runs. He rebounds.”
Frankamp and Morris didn’t sit for long and both played 20-plus minutes and both played well.
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: Freshman Austin Reaves played 12 minutes and scored two points. Ignore those stats.
He showed an advanced feel for the game, especially with his passing. He moved the ball crisply, found open teammates and looked like he understood the system. Three assists and one turnover is a solid debut for a rookie whose playing time has been limited by injury.
In different circumstances, I think it would be tempting to redsdhirt Reaves and give him a year to strengthen his body, especially his surgically repaired shoulders. WSU doesn’t appear to have that luxury in the backcourt and Reaves’ skills should put him in the rotation.
▪ Bad: Fouls and defensive breakdowns limited guard Daishon Smith to eight minutes.
Sherrill went 1 for 8 in the first half, largely due to Shamet’s defense. Sherrill made eight of 13 shots in the second half, six of nine from three-point range.
“Daishon had him,” Marshall said. “Daishon went under (a screen), gave him daylight. Boom. He knocked down his first three. Now he’s on fire and feeling good about himself.”
Coaches want to see Smith play with more urgency and focus and that’s a perfect example. Those mistakes give up baskets and get a player benched. Smith’s physical gifts are numerous and it’s not unusual for a newcomer to struggle.
I wanted to see more of Smith, especially after he drove to the basket twice for points in the first half.
▪ Numbers guy says: WSU shot 71.7 percent from the line last season. Ron Baker (79.3 percent) and Fred VanVleet (81.7) combined to make 205 of WSU’s 551 foul shots last season.
▪ On and on: WSU paid Augusta $12,000… The Shockers had won their previous five exhibition games by an average of 43.6 points. Morris’ 24 points are the most by a Shocker in an exhibition game since Carl Hall scored 23 vs. Pittsburg State in 2012. Shamet’s seven assists are the most since Matt Braeuer had seven against Pitt State in 2007.
▪ Next up: vs. South Carolina State, 8:30 p.m. Friday (Cox 22).
The Bulldogs are picked second in the MEAC. Guards Eric Eaves (first team) and Ed Stephens (second) are on the preseason all-conference team.
South Carolina State went 19-15 last season. It also plays South Carolina, Syracuse, Miami, Texas A&M, Clemson and Saint Mary’s.