▪ Key statistics: The Shockers shot 37.7 percent (71 of 188) from the field in the three games. They did most other things — defense, rebounding, turnovers — well enough. Shooting that poor is hard to overcome.
The Shockers aren’t going to face many defenses as strong as Louisville and Michigan State. They can work out their issues against lesser opponents.
One thing seems clear — they need to find players to get them a bucket when times are tough.
“We had some good performances (Friday),” coach Gregg Marshall said. “(Thursday), we lost by 10 to the 10th-ranked team in the country and nobody played well. Nobody. I asked them. I said ‘Who played well. Raise your hand.’ Not one guy could. That’s not going to get it done.”
▪ How the tournament turned: The first half against Michigan State altered this team’s reality. The starters performed poorly — four points total — and Marshall went to reserves for many of his second-half minutes.
Forty bad minutes against Louisville is one thing. Following it up with 20 more on Friday gave Marshall cause to rip up the playbook.
“The first half, we weren’t a very good basketball team,” Marshall said. “I didn’t have us ready to execute and compete at the level we need to to overcome an opponent like that. In the second half, we looked like a whole new team.”
So that opens up the possibilities for a team to look much different later this week. Marshall can experiment on Tuesday against NCAA Division II Southern Nazarene before Saturday’s game at Colorado State.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Marshall is looking at new lineups and juggling playing time this season. Almost everyone on the roster is stepping into either a new role or a new team. The 5-0 start masked some of that uncertainty. Playing Louisville and Michigan State revived it.
“We’re young,” Marshall said. “These are new guys. This is their seventh game of college basketball at the Division I level. A lot of guys are in prime-time roles when they’ve been in big-time complementary roles, or not at all.”
▪ Records:WSU 5-2
▪ Rotation watch: Guard Daishon Smith and forward Darral Willis made the biggest pitches for more minutes.
If Smith can continue to play point with that kind of energy and leadership, he frees Conner Frankamp to play off the ball and, perhaps, get more shots. Smith can push the ball more effectively than Frankamp and speed up the offense. Coaches want more shots for Frankamp.
This may be a three-man rotation in the backcourt, depending on how Austin Reaves’ shoulder injury develops. WSU has versatility in Smith, Frankamp and Shamet. We’ll see how ready freshman C.J. Keyser is for a bigger role.
Junior Rashard Kelly played five second-half minutes and 13 for the game. Junior Zach Brown played three second-half minutes and 17 for the game. Both shot poorly in the Bahamas. WSU needs its experienced players to play better.
Ruano Nurger continues to give WSU solid minutes off the bench. He played a career-high 25 minutes against Michigan State and scored 12 points, making 4 of 5 shots.
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: Willis went to work in the post against the Spartans and scored 16 points.
“Once I made the first and second ones, it just gets me going,” Willis said. “I was really disappointed with how I played against Louisville. Coming into this game I had a whole different mind-set. Battling and competing. I was ready to compete.”
▪ Bad: The Shockers missed two chances to earn NCAA-quality wins.
“We’ll just have to do it the hard way,” Marshall said. “We’ll have to win as many as we can and try to build a resume like that. The strength of schedule’s pretty good.”
Games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Northern Iowa remain.
▪ Numbers guy says: The Louisville game was particularly bricky — 12 of 35 (34.5 percent) on two-point shots and an atrocious 0.79 points per possession.
▪ Next up: vs. Southern Nazarene, 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox 2122)
The Crimson Storm (2-3) plays at West Texas A&M on Saturday.