Key statistics: WSU made 12 of 26 three-pointers, 8 of 16 in the first half. It took 13 more foul shots than Tulsa, although it outscored the visitors by only five points at the line.
Records: Tulsa 3-3, WSU 3-0
How the game turned: Tulsa missed 11 straight shots with the game tied 18-all, allowing WSU to build a 29-20 lead. Tulsa missed a variety of shots, most of them contested. Most important, WSU turned the Hurricane into a jump-shooting team. After Tulsa got two baskets in the lane during its hot start, both taking advantage of a size mismatch against WSU’s Evan Wessel, WSU shut off the inside game and Tulsa made little effort to punch the ball inside. WSU ended the half on a 22-4 run, a stretch best illustrated by Tulsa guard Rashad Ray missing a long two-pointer, which turned into a nasty crossover move and layup by Fred VanVleet – past Ray, Paul Pressey, Steve Harris and Phil Spradling – followed by Ray throwing a bounce pass out of bounds on a fast break.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU guard Ron Baker continued to kill Tulsa with his outside shooting. Baker made 6 of 11 threes Saturday. The Shockers sliced up the Tulsa zone in the first half to get Baker open shots and he took advantage. In three games against the Hurricane, Baker is 13 of 23 from three-point range.
Stat that might surprise you: WSU went 13 of 21 from the foul line and is shooting 64.6 percent from the line for the season. The three top foul-shooting percentages in Shocker history belong to Gregg Marshall teams. This will not stop the yearly ritual of a caller to his weekly radio show asking if his team works on free throws. There will be silence, as host Mike Kennedy ponders stepping in, then Marshall will sigh and refer the caller to his record. This is my favorite part of Marshall’s radio show. I also enjoyed former coach Mark Turgeon’s explanation for poor accuracy, when he would say “The wrong guys got fouled.” Other than Baker and VanVleet, there are not many Shockers with long college track records of above-average success from the line, so this may be a weakness and it may cost the Shockers in a close game they theoretically will play. It will not be because of a lack of practice.
Next up: at Utah, 10 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN2)
Words, pictures, video (with Bob Lutz’s take on Conner Frankamp) from Kansas.com.
Lutz: VanVleet’s leadership shows through again.
Tulsa World – Woodard made it interesting in the second half.
▪ I consider it progress for WSU redshirt freshman Shaq Morris when he gets in foul trouble for being too aggressive posting up and gets in the head of the opposition with physical play. Foul trouble limited his minutes Saturday, a typical problem for a rookie, and all the Shocker newcomers must learn to avoid silly fouls. But if Morris is going to get in foul trouble, you would rather see it because of energy mistakes than lazy mistakes.
In the first half, he was whistled for a foul when he buried a defender while hustling to get position in the lane on a fast break. In live action, I thought it was a bad call that penalized Morris for working hard. After watching the replay, I think his flailing arm action probably drew the whistle. In the second half, Morris and Tulsa’s Brandon Swannegan engaged in a series of pushing matches that began around the 13-minute mark and ended with Swannegan earning a technical foul with 5:22 to play after complaining to the refs.
“You’ve got to play hard and smart,” Marshall said. “Early on, I took him out because he wasn’t sprinting the court and sitting in aggressively. We want to try to get the ball to him right around basket. So I think then he took it a little too far, maybe. I’d rather have him be more aggressive than less aggressive. That’s been the problem for the most part.”
▪ Tulsa’s D’Andre Wright made Tulsa’s first basket and made another three-pointer four minutes into the game. Rashad Smith made Tulsa’s second basket and third baskets. Then they largely disappeared from the Tulsa offense as the Hurricane guards shot and shot and WSU contested almost every shot. Wright made two three-pointers in the first half, which may not have been the worst thing for the Shockers.
“I don’t like Wright making three-pointers on us, but I would prefer Wright shooting out there as opposed to being the guy around the basket I think he could be,” Marshall said.
The shot chart tells the story for Tulsa, especially in the first half (and kudos to WSU for keeping a shot chart, a practice not every school maintains). The Hurricane made one shot in the lane in the first half (by Smith) and missed five within a few feet of the rim. They also missed four shots from just inside the three-point line, shots judged impractical in most circumstances.
Tulsa took eight free throws, a result of their lack of an inside game.
“We took a lot of outside shots and that’s what they wanted us to do,” Tulsa guard James Woodard said.
▪ Tulsa ended a busy week with two games in Las Vegas and travel back to Tulsa after Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma State. The Hurricane didn’t practice on Thursday after arriving at 5 a.m., giving them one day of preparation for the Shockers. That’s a tough way to go, but coach Frank Haith didn’t blame fatigue.
“You’ve just got to fight through it,” Woodard said. “Once the ball is tipped off, I think all that goes out of your mind and you’re just playing the game.”
▪ Baker gave the MTXE-era uniforms a favorable review.
“Considering they came in last night, last-minute, no name on the back, I give them a B,” he said. “You put my name back there, I might give them an A-minus. They were really nice. I liked throwback Wu-Shock on the shorts. MTXE was phenomenal. The video at the beginning of the game was pretty cool. It’s an honor to represent (Gene Smithson) and his group of guys.”
▪ WSU’s marketing department went all-out to bring back MTXE memories and it was entertaining to see the video from that era on social media and the scoreboard. Those memories sustained the program for many years and it’s nice to connect the current success to that time.
Time and changing administrations heals all wounds, and MTXE and Smithson are now a cherished and recognized part of Shocker history, despite the NCAA probation and his firing and the firing of Randy Smithson, Gene’s son, years later. Eddie Fogler was hired as a reaction to the excesses of the early 1980s. Mike Cohen and Scott Thompson had much bigger problems and the timing wasn’t right through the 1990s as WSU continued to repair its relationship with the NCAA. After Randy’s departure, celebrating MTXE would have been awkward as long as athletic director Jim Schaus was around. With Schaus gone and Marshall one coach removed from a Smithson, it all fits and that’s fun for fans.
By that standard, we are about 15 years away from a baseball reconciliation with former coach Gene Stephenson.