▪ Key statistics: Wichita State made 12 of 27 shots and its three-point shooting ability continues to be the main theme of the season. When the Shockers perform that skill so well, it’s going to be hard for them to lose.
Loyola is a strong ball-handling team and it only committed 13 turnovers, which is an acceptable number, especially in a high-scoring game. WSU’s turned those 13 turnovers into 21 points, which speaks to its ability to run the floor and take advantage of those opportunities.
Markis McDuffie scored 26 points on 11 shots, which is fabulous efficiency. In five MVC games, McDuffie is 8 of 13 from three-point range and 21 of 23 from the foul line.
▪ How the game turned: I had no idea Zach Brown missed 12 of his 13 three-pointers in MVC games. He then missed his first four threes Wednesday.
This season, Brown made 6 of his first 11 threes. Then he went 1 for 9. In his next six games, he made 11 of 24. MVC play started and he went 1 for 13 in four games.
So Brown can rightly be called streaky. I see him in the gym enough to know that he is shooting a lot on his own. Since he is WSU’s best on-ball defender, or right there with Markis McDuffie, and a good rebounder, Brown is going to play.
“I didn't know that,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said, regarding Brown’s 1-for-17 slump. “I'm not sure he did, either. I'm not sure he would even care. He's wide open, and if he is going to be out there playing (small forward), he is going to have to make that shot. He's been shooting a pretty good percentage for most of the year. He's just going to have to get in the gym and work through that.”
Brown’s three with 3:58 to play gave the Shockers a 78-71 lead. Less celebrated, but also important, is his defensive rebound on the next possession. He mucked up the Ramblers with a deflection earlier in the possession and took the rebound away from two Ramblers. While it didn’t lead to points, it did run 41 seconds off the clock.
▪ Records: LU 12-6, 2-3 MVC, WSU 15-3, 5-0
▪ Rotation watch: We’ve written a bunch about Rauno Nurger lately and he continues to take advantage of his minutes off the bench. He played 20 minutes against the Ramblers, his most this season.
He grabbed six rebounds and helped on a key stop late in the game. He had two assists, one for a crucial late basket, and two turnovers.
WSU’s rotation of three big men is a luxury most MVC teams don’t have.
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: While there’s much about Loyola that doesn’t seem to meet MVC standards — attendance, arena, practice gym, media coverage — I like what coach Porter Moser is doing. He seems to understand the type of players he needs to win and can get some of them.
There’s talent on that team, just not quite enough. Moser has consistently added good players during the school’s MVC tenure and if that continues, Loyola has potential. Can one or two bench players improve by March for Loyola? If so, the Ramblers become more dangerous.
“It’s a tough spot talking to our guys after a game like that,” Moser said. “They kept battling back. The hard spot is, I want to be that team that wins those games. You don’t want to be patting their back because we came close.”
WSU started its previous two home games with leads of 13-0 (Bradley) and 8-0 (Drake) and those games never really got competitive. The Ramblers played like a team that wanted to be at Koch Arena on Wednesday, which we don’t always see. I liked starting the game with lob plays — going conservative probably isn’t going to work against WSU. Why not give your team an injection of confidence?
“You get better playing in this atmosphere,” Moser said. “You get better, as a team, playing against them.”
The Ramblers can cause problems with their small-ball lineups and the backcourt of Custer-Richardson-Doyle (as well as Donte Ingram at small forward) demands constant defensive focus. They pass the ball crisply and remind me of the 2008 Drake Bulldogs with their offensive versatility. It’s a fun team to watch.
“(Milton) Doyle even plays like a point,” WSU guard Landry Shamet said. “He can handle it. He was bringing the ball up all night. They kind of went small ball, which is hard to guard, especially when we go big like we usually do. They are pretty talented, one through five.”
I didn’t ask, but it wouldn’t surprise me if WSU backed off its usual attack on the offensive glass just a bit to account for Loyola’s ability to push the ball. According to hoop-math.com, it gets 21.6 percent of its shots in transition, which is second in the MVC behind Missouri State (21.8). Its effective field-goal percentage of 58.9 percent in transition is No. 101 nationally and third in the MVC.
▪ Bad: Doyle gave the Shockers fits with his drives to the basket. He’s tough to stop and WSU won’t want a future meeting to be a one-basket possession. The Shockers did hold him to 1-of-8 shooting from behind the arc. WSU had a hard time keeping track of Loyola’s Aundre Jackson, a 6-foot-5 post man with moves and touch. He made all seven of his shots and got open far more often than is comfortable for the Shockers.
▪ Numbers guy says: The Shockers dropped to No. 25, down three spots, in kenpom.com’s national ranking. They moved up 11 spots to No. 84 in the warrennolan.com RPI ranking.
Pomeroy’s ranking factors in margin of victory, which is often an area WSU can make progress. The NCAA selection committee uses Pomeroy, so it’s helpful for WSU to remain well-regarded by that stat, especially if it’s RPI is going to be an issue. The Shockers can, of course, help their RPI on Saturday at Illinois State.
▪ Next up: at Illinois State (13-4, 5-0 MVC), 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
The MVC chose wisely for one of its precious ESPN2 games.
The Redbirds can match up with the Shockers athletically. While they’re not as deep as WSU, they can go to their bench for helpful players.
Illinois State is a strong defensive team. It ranks No. 22 nationally in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings by holding opponents to .936 points per possession. WSU is No. 34 at .954. The Redbirds are a collection of rangy athletes who block shots and get in passing lanes to hold MVC opponents to 35.4 percent shooting.