▪ Key statistics: Wichita State scored 86 points, giving it 80-plus for the 14th time in MVC play.
The rest of the MVC combined for 16 games of 80-plus in regulation in a conference game. Eight of those came against last-place Drake. One (Evansville with 83) against WSU.
So that sums up the challenge for the rest of the Valley in Arch Madness. Scoring points can be misleading, if a team plays fast and gives up a bunch of points. Still, it’s good to score points and it’s really good to score 80.
Many teams have a tough time keeping up with that pace, if faced with a defense of any determination.
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Loyola and Drake reached 80 three times in regulation in MVC play. Bradley, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State and Southern Illinois, twice. Missouri State and Northern Iowa, not at all.
That does not discount Illinois State’s ability to hold the Shockers down, as they did in a 76-62 win at Redbird Arena.
What it does suggest is that the Shockers are in a good position to win three in a row, if they can muster typical scoring nights. The burden appears to be on the field to play at their absolute peak and drag WSU’s performance down at least a notch.
Illinois State reached 70 points (against Drake) once in its past nine games. It is certainly capable of a superior effort against WSU. Its task, should they meet on Sunday, will be made more difficult by playing three games in three days with the finale against the MVC’s deepest team.
▪ How the game turned: WSU made 8 of 16 three-pointers in the second half and committed two turnovers. Threes by Landry Shamet and Daishon Smith and a layup by Markis McDuffie fueled a 10-2 run that gave WSU a 60-48 lead and largely decided the matter.
▪ Records: WSU 27-4, 17-1 MVC; MSU 16-15, 7-11
▪ Rotation watch: WSU center Shaq Morris made all four of his foul shots and is 59 of 73 (80.8), fourth in the MVC. In MVC games, he is 46 of 54 (85.2 percent).
In his first two seasons, Morris made 76 of 117 (65 percent), so his improvement is significant.
“Just a lot of work in the off-season,” he said. “And me just being more focused when I go to the line. Telling myself ‘All right, my team needs these points.’ When I have that mind-set, I usually knock them down.”
WSU has four players (Morris, Shamet, McDuffie and Conner Frankamp) shooting above 80 percent in MVC games. That’s one of the quiet keys to this team’s offensive performance. For Morris, it means that, unlike some big men, he can play in close games and isn’t a danger at the line.
Hack-a-Shaq is makes no sense against this team.
This season should go down as one of the best from the line for a Shocker big man. Among centers who scored 1,000 or more points, only Garrett Stutz (2011-12) is better at 82.1 percent.
If the definition of “big man” is expanded, players such as Dave Stallworth (82.9 in 1963), Antoine Carr (79.1 in 1982), Sasha Radunovich (78.1 in 1988), Darin Miller (79.2 in 1996), Paul Miller (76.5 in 2005), Kyle Wilson (85.6 in 2005 and 84.9 in 2007) and Cleanthony Early (84.4 in 2014) enter the conversation.
▪ Somebody said this:
▪ Good: WSU’s 44 assists and eight turnovers in the past two games.
▪ Bad: The Shockers gave up 11 offensive rebounds to the Bears, although only 10 second-chance points.
▪ And on and on: The Shockers will move up in Monday’s AP top 25.
No. 24 Maryland is on a three-game skid. No. 23 Creighton has lost two in a row and three of four. No. 18 Virginia has lost three of four.
▪ Next up: The Shockers play at 6 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals of the MVC Tournament on Fox Sports Kansas City. The opponent is either seventh-seeded Bradley (12-9) or 10th-seeded Drake (7-23).
The Braves are making a move worth following with a season-high three-game win streak entering St. Louis. The Braves scored 77 or more points in wins over Evansville, Missouri State and Drake.
They recorded a season-high 20 assists against MSU and Evansville and eight turnovers, one off their season-low, against the Aces. There are some signs of a team figuring it out.