Key statistics: WSU made 17 of 23 fouls shots (73.9 percent) and committed five turnovers. It made 9 of 17 three-pointers. Those performances made up for poor shooting inside the arc and few offensive rebounds.
Records: WSU 11-2, 1-0 MVC; DU 3-10, 0-1
How the game turned: WSU had the best player on the floor and Ron Baker took over in the final nine minutes. He scored 15 of WSU’s final 18 points, making 4 of 4 shots and 5 of 8 free throws.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: Baker also grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists with no turnovers.
Stat that might surprise you: Drake outscored WSU 20-18 in the lane, 6-5 off turnovers, 11-3 on second-chance points and 21-10 off the bench.
Next up: vs. Illinois State, 4:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU)
▪ Eight MVC teams played Wednesday. None scored more than 66 points. The highest losing total was 61 (Illinois State). Missouri State won 53-50 at Southern Illinois. One team shot better than 43 percent (Loyola at 46.7). Drake, SIU and Illinois State shot under 36 percent and lost.
Welcome to MVC play.
On Tuesday, WSU coach Gregg Marshall told everybody this wasn’t going to be easy. If you were still hanging onto last season as your benchmark for the Shockers, Wednesday’s struggle against a No. 270 RPI team that starts two freshmen should make an impression.
“I know what it’s like, very well,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “It’s very rare you walk into another team’s building and beat them by 20 points. They’re going to make you work for it.”
Drake is not a good basketball team, but Ray Giacoletti looks like an excellent coach. He had eight days to prepare (and maybe more than that considering the previous NCAA Division III opponent) and he got his Bulldogs to write a recipe for beating the Shockers. They limited WSU to 18 points in the lane, five points off turnovers, three from offensive rebounds —all season-lows — and five on fast breaks.
In its first 12 games, WSU averaged 30.8 points in the lane, 18.4 off turnovers, 14.5 on second-chance points and 6.7 on breaks.
Drake rebounded, didn’t turn the ball over, didn’t take bad shots and worked the shot clock.
“It’s very difficult in this league because people know you,” WSU senior Tekele Cotton said. “You play every team twice and it’s very physical. You’ve just got to be ready.”
WSU is different without the NBA talent of Cleanthony Early. It also different without the size and strength of Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby. The Shockers lack that physical presence, rebounding and shot-blocking.
▪ WSU center Darius Carter recorded double-doubles against Seton Hall and Detroit to start a five-game stretch in which he averaged 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. He made 29 of 48 shots (60.4 percent). Against George Washington and Drake, he averaged 5.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. He made 4 of 18 shots.
He is WSU’s lone inside scoring threat and the Shockers have little chance to thrive in a half-court game if he isn’t playing well. WSU went to him three straight times to start the game in an effort to get him going.
“He had a hard time getting going,” Marshall said. “That’s all I can say about that.”
▪ WSU shot 70 percent or better from the foul line for the third time in four games (with the exception a 1-for-2 performance against GW).
▪ WSU’s margin of victory in its previous four MVC openers — plus-34 against Evansville, plus-39 at Bradley, plus-25 against Northern Iowa and plus-15 against Southern Illinois. Of course, WSU didn’t win the MVC title all four of those seasons, so it’s not a guarantee of future performance.
For the second game in a row, we heard the opponent talk about WSU’s vulnerability.
“Those guys are people just like us,” Drake guard Gary Ricks Jr. said. “The coaches put together a great game plan and if we execute it, we know we have a chance… against anybody in the country.”
▪ Solid 2014 for WSU, which went 33-3.
▪ WSU’s 10 consecutive MVC road wins is essentially the modern conference record. It is tied for sixth with Creighton from 1941-46. Kansas holds the record with 28 from 1924-28 and the other marks in the top five occurred around the same time.