Key statistics: The Shockers made 10 of 18 three-pointers and out-rebounded the Billikens 41-20. In the first half, Saint Louis grabbed five rebounds and didn’t get an offensive rebound.
Records: Saint Louis 5-3, WSU 5-1
How the game turned: Evan Wessel made his first three-pointer for a 5-0 lead. He made his second for a 14-7 lead. Rauno Nurger scored for a 16-10 lead, sending those two off to career-high 15-point nights. Nurger’s basket, on a driving assist by Wessel, started a 17-2 run that led to a 45-25 halftime deficit and sent fans to the barbecue stand in Intrust Bank Arena for my favorite (while watching the Thunder), the pork barbecue nachos covered with three kinds of sauce for a delicious cross-country taste.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU smashed an opponent on the glass after getting out-rebounded in a previous game. If Vegas sets the line on that stat, it’s easy money for Shocker fans.
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Stat that might surprise you: None of the five Billiken starters made more than one basket. That’s hard to do and reflects both good defense and a level of dissatisfaction by Saint Louis coach Jim Crews. Saint Louis’ first two possessions ended with a guarded, quick shot by Austin McBroom and a traveling violation by Ash Yacoubou, both indications the Billikens weren’t playing at their preferred tempo. Few teams turn bad shots into baskets more effectively than WSU and Crews reacted swiftly. Center John Manning played 13 second-half minutes, the only Saint Louis starter to reach double digits after halftime.
Next up: vs. Seton Hall, Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Words, photos, video from Kansas.com.
Bob Lutz: Wessel gives a clinic on obtaining loose basketballs.
Frankamp’s fit discussed by former teammate, coaches.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Crews went quickly to his freshmen during a rout.
▪ In the first half, the Shockers had 10 assists, by eight players, on 15 baskets. Tekele Cotton, with three, was the only Shocker with more than one. Saint Louis sent several double-teams at Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet early in the game in attempt to disrupt WSU’s offense and take the ball out their hands. The tactic didn’t bother the Shockers, because Baker, VanVleet and Cotton handled it calmly and the other Shockers made the right plays.
When the Shockers needed to pass quickly to find the open man, they did. When the Billikens trapped a split-second late, VanVleet dribbled through for a basket or an assist. No matter where the Billikens tried to force the Shockers, the Shockers countered and made the plays.
Cotton ended the game with seven assists, matching his career high. We probably can’t appreciate the many subtle acts WSU’s guards perform, but coaches do.
“Whatever you throw at them, they read the collective information and do it,” Crews said. “If you hard show, they hit the roll or they hit the drop guy. If you lateral it, they drag you out further and it opens up something else. They collect information, so if you want to play something this way, fine, they’re going to do the next thing. You want to change a little bit, fine, we’re going to do something else.”
▪ Rashard Kelly led WSU with seven rebounds in 12 minutes. He is second among WSU’s reserves by averaging 13.7 minutes and more will come his way with modest improvements in other areas because he excels at coach Gregg Marshall’s favorite skill. Kelly leads WSU with 13 offensive rebounds and his 26 total rank second, despite minimal playing time.
Kelly, according to kempom.com, grabs a team-leading 17.2 percent of available offensive rebounds and 18.7 percent of available defensive rebounds. If he played enough minutes to qualify, those stats would rank in the top 25 nationally for offensive rebounds (Utah’s Jakob Poeltl ranks first at 23.8 percent).
If one were to construct a pantheon of offensive rebounders under Marshall, it would include Carl Hall, who averaged 3.1 offensive rebounds a game, Ramon Clemente (2.6), Gabe Blair (1.8) and Chadrack Lufile (1.8). Kelly, in his young career, averages 2.1.
“I love how he pursues the basketball,” Marshall said. “He goes and gets the ball. His offensive game is certainly trailing it, and his defensive game is probably trailing, to a degree, his rebounding.”
Hall, as a senior in 2013, ranked in a tie for 78th nationally with an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.8. Clemente, in 2009, ranked in a tie for 89th with a defensive rebound percentage of 21.8.
▪ Wessel did many nice things against the Bills, scoring, rebounding and hustling as he usually does. He also made a nice play off the dribble, driving past a defender and hitting Nurger with a pass for a layup, early in the game. That is the kind of play we rarely see from Wessel. If he continues to shoot well, that is the kind of play that will be open to him as defenses honor his outside shot.
▪ Baker made a Dirk Nowitzki one-legged, fallback jumper late in the first half. I’ve seen him work on that shot many times, but if he’s made one in a game I missed it. The Shocker guards can do some damage in the post if those kind of shots fall.
▪ Saint Louis was 3-0 against MVC schools, defeating Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Bradley.
▪ Props to Intrust Bank Arena general manager A.J. Boleski for handling this exchange smoothly during the halftime interview on Cox 22:
Mark Ewing: I love the floor, it’s probably rarely used, so it’s really in top-notch condition.
Boleski: The Globetrotters use it every year, and we’ve hosted Oklahoma City three years now, so they just played the Toronto Raptors a couple weeks back, so we’re looking forward to making it an annual game here in Wichita.
I love my Apple TV (thanks to Andy Schlapp for hooking me up) and I deeply appreciate Cox and ESPN3 making those games available on replay. It is a golden age for watching college hoops on TV and it will only get better.
▪ Tuesday’s game against Seton Hall probably didn’t top people’s list of nonconference matchups when the schedule came out. It looks like a more intriguing matchup now that the Pirates are 7-0 with an 81-54 win over Rutgers on Saturday. Seton Hall, also 84-80 winners over Illinois State, will treat Tuesday as a program-defining game, just as Utah did last week.
Seton Hall’s strength is its backcourt.
Freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead scored 25 points in 21 minutes against Rutgers. He is a McDonald’s All-American who is averaging 12.6 points and 3.7 assists. Junior guard Sterling Gibbs scored 40 against Illinois State. He averages 18.7 and is making 53.3 percent of his three-pointers (16 of 30).