Key statistics: For the eighth game in the past three seasons, WSU created more turnovers than it allowed baskets. Drake turned the ball over 18 times Thursday on its way to scoring 16 baskets and a season-low 47 points.
Drake recorded a negative basket-to-turnover ratio for the third straight season in Koch Arena. In 2013-14, it had 20 turnovers and made 18 baskets in an 83-54 loss. Last season, it was 15 baskets and 17 turnovers in a 74-40 loss.
I don’t know if anybody tracks this stat. It needs a name.
WSU’s offense is working on its chemistry and continuity, which isn’t surprising considering its leader missed around a month of practice and games. The rest of the rotation, with freshmen in and out, Anton Grady in, out and in, and Conner Frankamp in, spent the season’s first eight weeks in flux.
So while the offense develops, the Shockers are happy to lean on defense. Thursday’s sequence of two shot-clock violations and a turnover showed how effective that approach is and makes Gregg Marshall a happy coach. “It brings him back to the times when that was the main mentality that we had,” WSU forward Zach Brown said. “And that’s still the mentality we have.”
The Shockers played equally dominant defense early in the game, starting with a blocked shot by Shaq Morris and a forced three by Drake’s Kale Abrahamson.
An early press so rattled Drake’s Graham Woodward that he traveled while inbounding the ball after a WSU foul.
How the game turned: Brown’s three-point play near the end of the first half started a 21-2 run that pushed WSU’s lead to 46-27 in the second half. Brown scored seven of those points.
Brown’s drive and basket over Drake center Jacob Enevold is the type of play he wasn’t making earlier in the season. WSU’s offense is much more dangerous when he is an off-the-bounce threat.
I don’t think I’ve seen a player do more dribbling drills in my time covering WSU. Brown and assistant coach Greg Heiar are constant companions on the court and hallways at Koch Arena,. Heiar throws tennis balls at Brown while he dribbles with one hand and catches with the other. Brown dribbles two basketballs. He dribbles in between cones. He changes tempo. He dribbles in and out of crouch.
That work is showing signs of paying off for Brown, whose 50 free throw attempts are second on the team.
Records: DU 5-8, 0-1 MVC; WSU 7-5, 1-0
Stat that might surprise you: Drake guard Reed Timmer took five shots. He entered the game averaging 11.9 points.
WSU’s Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Brown played him in full-denial mode and Timmer didn’t help himself by standing and watching on numerous possessions. While he beat Brown backdoor for a layup early in the game, he often made it easy for his defender.
Stat that won’t surprise you: VanVleet had six assists and has 501 for his career, tops at WSU and No. 15 in MVC history.
Freshman watch: Forward Markis McDuffie played 13 minutes and made all four of his foul shots. He forced a three in the first half that seemed to sour his offensive game.
MVC play will be another adjustment for the rookies. They will be scouted and prepared for like never before in their careers.
Guard Ty Taylor, who sat out the Nevada game with a sore shoulder, played briefly.
Why they’re All-Americans: Baker scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half when he made 2 of 3 three-pointers. VanVleet added three steals to his 13-point, 6-assist effort.
Rotation watch: Center Bush Wamukota returned after serving a one-game suspension for an academic issue. He played two minutes.
Next up: at Bradley, 1 p.m. Sunday (Cox Kansas, KEYN, 103.7-FM)
The Braves (2-12, 0-1) generally start four freshmen and a sophomore. They have 10 freshmen on their 12-man active roster. They last defeated an NCAA Division I team on Nov. 13, a 54-53 win over Ball State.
The Shockers are enjoying a historic run against one of their oldest rivals with a series-best 11 straight wins. Seven of those wins are by 20 or more, two more by 10 or more points.
On Wednesday, Northern Iowa defeated the Braves