Key statistics: Wichita State committed 21 turnovers, leading to 13 Pirates points. The Pirates outscored WSU 36-16 in the paint, powered by drives to the basket and Angel Delgado’s 14 points. Seton Hall’s driving ability also helps explain the 16-point edge at the foul line.
How the game turned: WSU led by 11 points with 13:30 remaining in the game and eight with 10:19 to play. Seton Hall’s 9-0 run gave it a 55-54 lead, a span in which WSU missed four shots and committed two turnovers. The Pirates grabbed two offensive rebounds during that stretch and converted both into points.
Records: WSU 5-5, Seton Hall 9-2
Stat that might surprise you: WSU’s Fred VanVleet committed a career-high six turnovers, topping his previous high of five (vs. Kansas in 2015 and Southern Miss in 2012). VanVleet recorded more turnovers than assists eight previous times in his 116-game career, seven times as a freshman and last season at Northern Iowa (three assists, four turnovers).
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Saturday’s three-assist, six-turnover day is his fourth at negative-three or worse in turnovers, topped only by an 11-minute effort at Illinois State when he committed four turnovers and had no assists as a freshman.
So that was rare and almost unprecedented since he became a starter as a sophomore. We probably won’t see anything similar with VanVleet in a Shockers uniform.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU’s four post players combined for 10 points, with Shaq Morris scoring six. The lack of post scoring puts a burden on VanVleet and Ron Baker to make plays. Seton Hall possessed the defenders, on the perimeter and the interior, to make life rough for those two.
Freshman watch: Markis McDuffie came home to New Jersey and scored six points, making 2 of 6 shots, and grabbed five rebounds. He also had two steals and a block.
Why they’re All-Americans: The Pirates sold out on blanketing VanVleet and Baker and it paid off. VanVleet missed 12 of 18 shots, although he did make 4 of 6 threes. Baker went 5 of 13 and committed five turnovers (seven assists) in 40 minutes.
“That was the focus all week, VanVleet and Baker,” Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington said. “We just tried to frustrate them. A lot of teams play them all the way outside. We tried to stay compact around the three-point line, jam the screens and we frustrated them a little bit.”
While Seton Hall gave up some threes, they kept Baker and VanVleet from scoring in the lane by smothering them with shot-blockers. WSU’s guards didn’t get some of the foul calls that often go their way when they drive into the defense.
“I feel like I had good opportunities at the rim,” VanVleet said. “I didn’t make them, I didn’t get the call, whatever the case may be.”
The end was a game that looked somewhat like last season’s loss at Utah, when foul trouble limited Darius Carter’s minutes and VanVleet went 5 for 19. The combination of negligible post production and fouls put WSU’s guards in tough spots, especially late in the shot clock, and they made some bad decisions.
“I thought our guards were forcing it a little bit, the ball sticking to their hands a little bit,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
Rotation watch: Marshall didn’t waste time moving Anton Grady, out since Nov. 27 with a spinal concussion, back into the rotation. Grady played 16 minutes and supplanted Bush Wamukota and Rauno Nurger.
The Shockers need Grady’s inside scoring if they’re going to be the team they hope to be.
“I think Anton can do it,” VanVleet said. “He had some good moments. Shaq had some good moments down low before he got in foul trouble. Those two guys can do it.”
▪ The Shockers are now 1-2 on the road with losses at Tulsa (No. 45 in the RPI) and Seton Hall (No. 50).
In both road games against good competition, supporting Shockers largely came up short. That’s a common problem in college basketball, with players who score 12 points at home score four on the road and fail to positively influence a game.
I’m putting Seton Hall more in the UNLV camp as far as predicting how much the loss stings. The Pirates are young and last season’s team was 7-0 when it lost at WSU. The Pirates finished 16-15, 6-12 in the Big East.
The Shockers must hope the Seton Hall is for real this season, much like UNLV. There is talent and size and I liked the play of Desi Rodriguez, who seems to bring some steady toughness to a team that can go off the rails. If Isaiah Whitehead can avoid turnovers and bad shots, the Pirates can be a handful.
WSU’s road success in recent seasons spared the Shockers from this fate. This team is still learning how to get its road legs against good competition.
▪ You can look at WSU’s season two ways:
The Shockers are a team that’s lost two starters and a top reserve for multiple games and lost three by four points or fewer, all to top 50 RPI teams and all away from home. All five of the losses are to top-50 teams, one in a blowout.
Its strength of schedule ranks No. 6 nationally, according to warrennolan.com
The win over Utah looks even stronger after the Utes defeated No. 7 Duke on Saturday in Madison Square Garden.
WSU has been through a lot of turmoil since Oct. 31 and it now has a chance, with Grady back, to proceed in relatively healthy form and start winning games. At 5-5, things don’t look so good. At 16-5, things look a little better.
Or, the Shockers are a team that can’t beat good competition away from home and lacks a third scoring threat, mostly because of questionable post scoring. The NCAA selection committee will factor injuries, but it can’t conjure up good wins or erase losses. It also can’t ignore the fact that VanVleet and Grady played in losses at Tulsa and at Seton Hall, even if their health wasn’t perfect.
And, one of WSU’s wins is over Emporia State.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard knows which side he falls on.
“That’s as good a basketball team and probably as well-coached a basketball team as I’ve ever seen on film and played against,” he said. “The know who to zone out, they know your plays, they know who to cheat off. That’s a terrific basketball team and a really good win for our guys.”
Either way, WSU’s margin of error is thin the rest of the season.
Around the MVC:
Northern Iowa rides to the rescue with an 81-79 win over No. 5 Iowa State in Des Moines on Saturday. The Panthers also own a win over No. 1 Northern Carolina and play in the Diamond Head Classic this week.
The win raised UNI’s RPI to No. 41 and the Panthers are in position to improve with a healthy win streak. I would expect WSU-UNI games to give the winner a chance to claim a resume-builder. That is good news for the Shockers.
UNI’s top-five wins mark the fifth time in Valley history a conference member knocked off two such highly ranked teams.
WSU defeated No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Loyola during the 1965-66 season and No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Loyola during the 1962-63 season.
Next up: vs. Nevada (8-3), 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox Kansas, KEYN 103.7-FM)
The Wolf Pack haven’t beaten a team in the top 100 of the RPI and four of its wins are against teams 277 or worse. The team recently lost senior center A.J. West, who quit the team while averaging 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Against that weak schedule, Nevada is a strong defensive team which allows opponents to shoot 37.2 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three-point range.
Eric Musselman, who coached the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, is in his first season with the Wolf Pack.