Gameday Update: New Mexico State at Wichita State

Former Wichita State player Tekele Cotton steals the ball during last season’s 71-54 win over New Mexico State at Koch Arena.
Former Wichita State player Tekele Cotton steals the ball during last season’s 71-54 win over New Mexico State at Koch Arena. The Wichita Eagle

▪  Ron Baker is at shootaround on Monday. He missed Sunday’s film and light practice with illness. While he could relapse, I would imagine it would take a something like a zombie virus to keep Baker out of the game.

▪  There is a 57-assist gap between WSU’s No. 2 assists leader (Baker with 83) and No. 3 (Zach Brown 26). Should that hold, it will be the biggest gap since 2009-10, when Toure Murry had 109 and David Kyles had 48.

While that stat could be misleading because Conner Frankamp hasn’t play an entire season (19 assists in 18 games), it does highlight WSU’s lack of a third ball-handler who can break down defenses, pass and score. In past seasons, it’s been players such as Tekele Cotton, Demetric Williams and David Kyles who could do some of those things. Cotton progressed enough that he played some point last season. Williams, of course, played point guard most of his four seasons.

That player is missing for the most part this season. Frankamp has been an ultra-cautious ball-handler (three turnovers), which is absolutely the best way to get playing time. He can make good passes and is an excellent foul shooter. It may be past time for him to get more adventuresome in games in which WSU’s offense needs some juice. Markis McDuffie can score on drives and has 23 assists and 23 turnovers. Landry Shamet, who remains sidelined and uncertain to play, could have given the Shockers some of that.

For most of the season, the Shockers were able to cover up that issue.

Shamet, who played in three games, has five assists. Center Anton Grady, who has played in 21, has six and 31 turnovers. While Grady isn’t a primary ball-handler, that’s another indication WSU is missing some passing skills.

▪  New Mexico State’s size could cause problems. The Aggies start 6-9 and 6-10 players and bring a 7-footer off the bench. Pascal Siakam, their top scorer and rebounder, plays power forward and is 6-9. Evan Wessel will guard him, but Siakam could force the Shockers into some bigger lineups.

▪  The Aggies turn the ball over on 20.7 percent of their possessions, 310th worst in the nation.

WSU pressured the Aggies in last season’s 71-54 win and scored 26 points off 20 turnovers, creating a parade of layups and dunks. It scored 50 points in the paint.

Fred VanVleet had seven steals to tie a school record.

“I don’t think they have a true point guard, but they have some guys that can really make plays off the bounce,” he said after last season’s game. “If we sat back and let them throw it in the post we probably would lose that battle 10 times out of 10 with the size. We didn’t want to just let them bang it in and bang it in all night.”

Ian Baker is the team’s biggest three-point threat, shooting 40.3 percent. No other Aggie who plays significant minutes shoots better than 30 percent.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

New Mexico State at No. 25 Wichita State

  • When: 7 p.m. Monday
  • Where: Koch Arena
  • Records: NMSU 18-8; WSU 18-7
  • Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
  • TV: Cox 22