Key statistics: WSU made 13 of 24 three-pointers (54.2 percent) and scored 49 points in the paint to beat NAIA Division II’s fifth-ranked team in an exhibition game.
How the game turned: The Shockers made 7 of 13 threes and forced 13 turnovers in the first half. Ron Baker scored 14 of his game-high 22 in the final 3:49 as WSU turned a 16-point lead into a 56-29 halftime edge.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: MVC preseason Player of the Year Fred VanVleet took a mere five shots and and handed out six assists in 15 minutes.
Stat that might surprise you: WSU missed 15 of its 38 free throws - and still scored 112 points.
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▪ WSU guard Ria’n Holland scored 16 points and all four of his three-pointers. He knows, however, defense will get him on the floor and his two steals and good positioning in 21 minutes also helped.
“Offense stood out tonight, but I feel like I played good team defense,” he said. “Especially when we were pressing, I got a couple deflections, stayed in front of my man.”
Holland also grabbed three rebounds and handed out two assists with no turnovers in a well-rounded effort.
“We know he can really shoot the ball and score,” VanVleet said. “What he does he best is fly around and play as hard as he can. He was everywhere, getting loose balls and saving plays and getting steals and rebounds.”
▪ Coaches play the players they trust, which is why junior Evan Wessel started. He made his lone three-pointer and the crowd roared. His teammates and coaches greeted him on the bench with chest bumps and high fives. That shot had to be a relief for Wessel, who made 3 of 25 threes last season. Freshman Rauno Nurger got the first call off the bench and that reflects what we’ve heard of Nurger — he plays hard and is offensively skilled.
▪ I wanted to see more of Corey Henderson Jr. at point guard. He looks comfortable playing off the ball and he made two very nice passes for baskets in the final minutes. WSU’s system is complex, so it’s not surprising that a freshmen isn’t ready to run things. But with a tough non-conference schedule, Henderson won’t get many opportunities for on-the-job training.
▪ I wrote about it in the game story, but WSU’s ability to stay focused, work on defense and run the offense in the second half of a rout impressed me. It’s rare to see a team stay locked in in that situation and the Shockers did. Perhaps the newcomers were so excited to play in front of the Koch Arena crowd that the score didn’t matter.
▪ Former Kansas and North guard Conner Frankamp watched and did the recruit look-around thing after the game. He, understandably, is trying to keep his recruitment quiet and the school or schools he is considering might appreciate that approach. My guess is that nothing will happen, especially if his choice is WSU, until after the signing period that begins Wednesday. WSU would not want to spook its two guard recruits who are committed. We don’t know what options Frankamp might be considering at this point, and certainly a player of his stature will have options. To be precise, we don’t even know for sure that WSU has offered him a scholarship. WSU, with two seniors on the roster, has four non-binding commitments.
▪ Can we retire the “You still suck” cheer from the student section after the opponent makes a free throw? It was never particularly clever. Now it’s old. Get somebody at the Innovation Campus on this.
Next up: vs. New Mexico State, 8 p.m. Friday (Cox 22)