Key statistics: WSU’s bench outscored the MSU reserves 45-8 with Markis McDuffie (16 points) and Conner Frankamp (14) doing most of the damage.
McDuffie scored 12 points in the first half. Frankamp scored 12 of his points in the second half.
That is a 1-2 punch not many MVC teams can match off the bench.
The Shockers overwhelmed the Bears on the glass, grabbing a season-high 49 rebounds for a season-high rebound margin of 20. So they took 21 more shots than MSU, more than enough to overcome a 21-point deficit at the foul line.
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How the game turned: The Shockers are way too confident to let a 15-4 deficit rattle them. It was only a matter of time.
Shaq Morris turned things a bit with a rebound and dunk. Then he stole a soft pass near the three-point line, playing aggressive denial defense, leading to Zach Brown’s three-pointer.
If that sequence didn’t do it, Ron Baker’s thunderous fast-break dunk over MSU’s Obediah Church helped. SportsCenter ranked it No. 8 on its top plays.
The Bears did themselves in with two bad shots later in the first half. Dequon Miller forced a three that missed and WSU’s Rashard Kelly dunked to cut the lead to 22-18. After an airball, the Shockers again beat the Bears down court, this time for a Frankamp layup.
Records: WSU 11-5, 5-0 MVC; MSU 6-11, 2-3
Stat that might surprise you: WSU’s 17 offensive rebounds produced only 10 points. WSU’s big men, for a second straight game, didn’t take advantage of size mismatches and defenses that had to account for WSU’s outside shooters. Anton Grady, after making 8 of 13 shots and scoring 17 points against Evansville, is 2 for 7 with seven points in the past two games.
Stat that won’t surprise you: WSU defeated the Bears for the 11th straight time, eight by 10 or more points.
Freshman watch: VanVleet used the word “dynamic” twice to describe McDuffie and his work at power forward.
McDuffie hadn’t played power forward in a game before Wednesday. Foul trouble caused WSU coach Gregg Marshall to try him there. It worked. It looks like it’s worth more experimenting.
McDuffie might not be strong enough to guard some big men (Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh, for example), but he can make up for that with his height and quickness. He can make threes and his rebounding effort is strong. His versatility could unlock some intriguing possibilities.
McDuffie at the four with Brown, Baker, VanVleet and Morris or Grady might turn out to be a strong lineup for the Shockers.
Why they’re All-Americans: Baker finished with seven assists, matching his season-high, and one turnover. VanVleet had three steals, eight assists and three turnovers.
It wasn’t a good shooting night for either. The Shockers, unlike in November, aren’t as dependent on scoring from those two.
Rotation watch: Sophomore center Rauno Nurger played a season-high 20 minutes. After whiffing on a first-half rebound to the great dismay of coaches, he handled himself well by grabbing four rebounds and blocking a career-high three shots.
▪ One thing the Bears coach Paul Lusk could really use is shooting. Junior Austin Ruder, a career 36-percent three-point shooter is out, likely for the season, with a hip flexor.
Another thing is experience and organization. Senior starter Dorrian Williams, who ranked fourth in the MVC last season with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio, has missed three games with a hamstring injury. Also out is sophomore guard Shawn Roundtree. The Bears did get an unexpected boost from sophomore forward Chris Kendrix, who missed the previous game with back spasms.
“I can’t imagine what Paul is doing with all those injuries,” Marshall said. “He’s got three veteran guards over there in street clothes. It’s hard to deal with. I know, because I dealt with it in the first semester.”
I liked Bears freshmen Obediah Church, who had some spectacular plays around the basket, and guard Ryan Kreklow made 2 of 4 threes and competed well against WSU’s backcourt.
▪ Marshall is always hesistant to pull back on his three-point shooters, even when they miss 9 of 10, as they did to start Wednesday’s game. WSU made 2 of 14 in the first half. In the second half, it made 7 of 14.
“We’ve got some pretty good shooters that were taking toe-the-line, wide-open threes and just not making them,” he said. “I don’t want to stymie their confidence.”
WSU finished with 20 assists on 32 baskets and made 23 of 39 two-point shots. WSU’s offense improved when they began attack MSU’s zone with some nifty interior passing and penetration.
Around the MVC:
Bradley won 54-53 at Loyola.
Relief for Braves coach Brian Wardle. With 10 freshmen mired in a six-game losing streak, he desperately needed something good to happen. Every loss raised the possibility of an 0-18 MVC record.
Despair for Loyola coach Porter Moser. The Ramblers are 0-5 in the MVC. The gains from an encouraging 2014-15 seem lost.
Next up: vs. Indiana State, 3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN3, KEYN, 103.7-FM)
The Sycamores (10-7, 4-1) have won four in a row, handling Illinois State (77-65) and Northern Iowa (74-60) at home. Indiana State held those teams to 9-of-42 shooting from three-point range.
Sophomore guard Brenton Scott is 19 of 39 from the field in those wins, 11 of 18 from three-point range, to average 27.5 points.