Key statistics: The Shockers held Emporia State to five first-half baskets and forced 12 turnovers on their way to a 38-13 halftime lead.
How the game turned: WSU led 5-4 when freshman guard Ty Taylor gave the Shockers a burst of energy. He made back-to-back threes for a 16-4 lead, part of a 15-0 run. WSU forced three turnovers during this stretch and the Hornets missed five shots.
Records: ESU 0-2, WSU 2-1
Stat that might surprise you: WSU’s Anton Grady went 1 for 5 from the field and scored four points in 24 minutes.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU’s Ron Baker played 31 minutes. The Shockers don’t have much going on at point guard without Baker on the floor.
Freshman watch: Taylor and Landry Shamet both scored nine points. Both are needed to produce with guard Fred VanVleet sidelined. While scoring isn’t Taylor’s primary job, it’s helpful and it can give him some confidence. WSU coach Grergg Marshall liked Taylor’s play in the first half.
A lot of things go through the mind of a freshman trying to earn playing time. If making baskets gets him on the court and allows him to relax and focus on other aspects of his game, that’s a good step. Taylor’s point-guard skills are developing, as they would be for almost any freshman.
Why they’re All-Americans: Baker scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out four assists. Everything runs through him and there will not be much rest until VanVleet returns.
Rotation watch: On Friday, the message of the day on the white board in the film room read:
▪ How will you respond?
▪ It’s not about your talent, size, skill or athleticism. Those are just extra.
Those words reflected coach Gregg Marshall’s belief the Shockers didn’t play with typical Shocker intensity at Tulsa. Senior center Bush Wamukota seemed to make the most of those words with seven rebounds, four offensive, in 14 minutes.
“The guy I thought made the biggest improvement from the Tulsa game was Bush Wamukota,” Marshall said. “He was really, really good. He rebounded the ball above the crowd. He had a really tremendous defensive play, and then came up with a loose ball, when they had some numbers, in the second half.”
▪ Here’s more of what Marshall said about VanVleet’s strained left hamstring:
“I really didn’t want him to play against Charleston Southern. That was their decision and they thought they were ready and he played and tweaked the ankle. The day before the Tulsa game he practiced and looked like his old self. The first couple minutes of the Tulsa game he looked like his old self. Once he tweaked the hamstring again in the Tulsa game, he did not look like himself. Until I watched the film, I couldn’t tell the way he was laboring. He was really laboring that game. He ends up playing 30 minutes, but he doesn’t help us like a healthy Fred VanVleet helps you. We didn’t get anything in transition. There was no burst to the basket. He wasn’t even playing defense at all like he normally plays, because he couldn’t. He’s shut down for awhile, and I don’t know how long that’s going to be. I’ve never had a hamstring pull. From what I’ve heard and what I’ve read, you’ve really got to be careful when you come back, because they have the probability of them recurring is very good if you don’t make it 100 percent healthy. We’re doing everything that we can to do that as a training staff and a medical staff. I’m just going to wait until they tell me he’s absolutely ready to go. There’s going to be no push from my end.”
▪ Emporia State coach Shaun Vandiver said WSU’s ball-screen defense looked “1,000 times” better against his Hornets than it did against Tulsa.
Marshall said the reason was simple.
He went back to WSU’s usual plan on defense, which means fighting through screens, delaying and disrupting the dribbler and sticking with your man instead of switching men. The Shockers switched screens against the Hurricane, because Tulsa plays a lot of similarly sized athletes and have unusual positions screening for each other. The Shockers got confused and it led to open shots.
“We were doing too much against Tulsa,” Marshall said. “I’m not a very good switching coach. In retrospect, we didn’t have it down. So we tried to do some things — they’re easier if you’re good at it and you practice it all the time, but that’s not what we do. We were trying to switch and we’d blow a switch and there would be bad communciation. That’s why I don’t switch.”
Marshall described WSU’s plan on switching as “Talk, touch, take.”
“You have to talk it through, two guys come together and they almost touch each other and then you have to go and actually aggressively take the other guy,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of that.”
▪ You may notice several Shockers with their warmup pants stuffed inside their socks before games. This is no fashion trend you need to be aware of. The pants, players say, are too long.
So tell the 12-year-olds on your YMCA basketball team they can wear sweat pants as nature intended, no matter what the Shockers are doing.
Around the MVC: After a dismal week, Northern Iowa brightened up the Valley picture with a 71-67 win over No. 1 North Carolina.
Good stuff from the MVC’s Mike Kern:
▪ It is the first non-conference win over No. 1 by an MVC team at home in the Valley’s 109-year history.
Before Saturday, WSU owned the Valley’s top-ranked non-conference home wins — defeating No. 2 Ohio State (1962) and No. 2 Michigan (1965).
▪ The MVC owns eight wins over No. 1, two by UNI with Kansas in 2010 and Saturday. The first seven came on neutral courts.
▪ The last time a No. 1 team visited an MVC arena was 1993, when No. 1 Arkansas defeated Tulsa in overtime.
▪ The MVC counts 14 rallies from 18-point (or more) deficits for a victory. Two happened Saturday. Southern Illinois trailed Sam Houston State by 18 before winning 86-81. Loyola trailed Toledo by 18 before winning 67-62.
UNI trailed the Tar Heels by 16 in the second half.
SIU is 4-0 for the first time since 2004. Evansville defeated Belmont 93-88, another solid win. Belmont won at Marquette and defeated Western Kentucky at home.
Next up: vs. Southern Cal, 1 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2)
The Trojans are 3-0 after defeating New Mexico 90-82 on Saturday.
If this is starting to sound vaguely familiar in a queasy kind of way, you remember Las Vegas in 2006.
The Shockers were ranked No. 8 when they went to Las Vegas. food poisoning hit P.J. Couisnard and he didn’t play. WSU lost to New Mexico and Southern Cal, the start of a four-game sked that effectively ruined that season after a 9-0 start and wins at George Mason, LSU and Syracuse.
The Trojans return five starters from a team that went 12-20 and added some high-profile recruits. They have scored 83, 101 and 90 points in their wins over San Diego, Monmouth (which beat UCLA three days earlier) and New Mexico. Guard Jordan McLaughlin is averaging 20.3 points and shooting 58.8 percent from the floor.
The Trojans are making 49.7 percent of their shots and holding opponents to 36.2 percent. Like Tulsa, this does not sound like an easy task with a healthy VanVleet.