Key statistics: Tulsa’s bench scored 30 points. WSU’s reserves scored eight.
How the game turned: WSU went up 35-30 in the second half, completing a 13-0 run that started before halftime. Then Fred VanVleet left his man to clog up the lane and, playing on a strained left hamstring, wasn’t fast enough to recover and contest a three-pointer by Rashad Ray. After two WSU misses, Ray missed a corner three. The rebound bounced to Pat Birk in front of the rim, while Shaq Morris and Rashard Kelly watched. Birk scored and that’s the kind of play which will get replayed about 20 times in film study. WSU has to make those kind of effort plays to win on the road. Tulsa never trailed again.
Records: WSU 1-1, Tulsa 2-0
Stat that might surprise you: Hey, only 46 fouls called. Not too bad, helped by Tulsa’s zone defense.
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Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: The Shockers are 1-1. Even with VanVleet healthy, Tulsa always represented a significant challenge. WSU makes us forget it for long stretches of time, but playing on the road is hard.
Freshman watch: I expected some regression for rookies playing on the road for the first time. That happened. Guard Landry Shamet played well, but foul trouble limited him to 10 minutes. It’s hard being a freshman. It’s harder when VanVleet isn’t able to perform his usual job of making the game easier for you.
Why they’re All-Americans: Ron Baker scored 23 points and had four steals and four rebounds, taking on the burden as WSU’s lone perimeter scorer. The downside of Baker playing point is that he can’t pass to himself and perimeter options such as Evan Wessel and Zach Brown didn’t shoot well and aren’t off-the-dribble threats. VanVleet had three assists and no turnovers and his 9-point-in-77-seconds burst provided a highlight.
Rotation watch: Shamet shows again why he’s earned the trust of the coaches. The rest of the bench is in a flux after Tuesday. Minutes are available and we will see who improves. Sophomore center Shaq Morris has to give WSU more than two points, one rebound, four fouls and 12 minutes.
▪ The upside of the defeat is that it restores some life to what should be a good non-conference rivalry. WSU had won seven straight in the series and Hurricane fans have yet to emotionally invest in their team. Tuesday night should help.
“I saw Gregg (Marshall) this summer and I congratulated him on what he has done at Wichita State,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. “I told him, ‘Listen, I would love for us to be able to do that with our program’ and create something like what he has consistently done there. He has done a tremendous job and I have a lot of respect for him and what he has continued to do at Wichita State.”
▪ Baker expressed concern about WSU’s second-half defensive effort, in which Tulsa shot 52.2 percent from the field and made 4 of 9 three-pointers. The Hurricane also made 19 of 24 free throws in the second half. A look at the replay showed the Shockers missing some switches and giving up too many open shots.
“Defensively, we were all right in the first half,” he said. “Second half, I thought guys started grabbing a little too much, got them to the foul line. That kind of tells the story.”
▪ VanVleet gave a glimpse into his value in the final few minutes. He watched because the Shockers had to press. He stood most of the time, instructing teammates and cheering.
“It’s easy when you’re losing for everybody to be negative,” he said. “I’m just trying to be a positive voice throughout the storm. If I’m going to be positive when we’re winning, I’m going to be positive when we’re losing.”
▪ WSU last sat at .500 when it started the 2011-12 season 2-2.
Around the MVC: Northern Iowa defeated Southland Conference favorite Stephen F. Austin 70-60 on Tuesday morning. Loyola plays at New Mexico on Wednesday.
Next up: The Shockers play host to NCAA Division II Emporia State at 2 p.m. Saturday (Cox Kansas). The Hornets (0-2) also lost an exhibition game 80-42 to Kansas State. Heights product Terrence Moore averages 21.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.