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Pregame update: Drake at No. 14 Wichita State

Wichita State center Bush Wamukota is earning playing time with improved rebounding.
Wichita State center Bush Wamukota is earning playing time with improved rebounding. The Wichita Eagle

▪  On Wednesday, the MVC schedule hits the halfway point with game No. 9. WSU’s second half looks more challenging than the first, with two games against Northern Iowa (6-1 in second place) and Indiana State (6-2 in third) and trip to Illinois State (4-3).

While WSU’s reserves remain a largely inconsistent bunch, coach Gregg Marshall wants them to know there is still plenty of time to contribute. Shaq Morris appears to be trending up based on the past two weeks. So does Rashard Kelly after Wednesday’s win at Missouri State. Marshall likes Bush Wamukota’s defense and rebounding.

Recently, Marshall told them he hasn’t given up on anybody.

“We had a couple of meetings … to try to talk to these guys about what we’re after and make sure they understand,” he said. “Playing time is still there for guys who produce in practice and produce in games. I think the message got through to several of them. Rashard was the best he’s been in awhile against Missouri State. (Zach) Brown did not hurt us at all. Tevin Glass was good off the bench.”

Wamukota, in 21 minutes the past three games, has grabbed eight rebounds.

“He’s rebounding the ball very well,” Marshall said. “He’s always played pretty inspired. He’s not fouling as much defensively and he’s rebounding better on both ends.”

It will be difficult for guards to earn a bunch more playing time in games that aren’t decided. The experience ahead of them is not going to go away and Marshall will lean on Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton for 30-plus minutes in any game he feels strongly about winning.

The trick for players such as Brown, Ria’n Holland Corey Henderson is to play seven good minutes in hopes of building that to 12. The story is a little different in the front court, where minutes spelling Darius Carter in the post and Evan Wessel at power forward are available. Wessel averages 19.9 minutes, which offers plenty for Morris, Kelly and Wamukota to play. Carter averages 22.8 minutes, although he can be expected to play more when he avoids fouls.

▪  Drake kept the first meeting close (losing 66-58) by committing seven turnovers and out-rebounding WSU 38-29, 12-6 offensively. The Bulldogs kept the game slow with long possessions and their strategy worked.

Doing that on the road will likely be more difficult.

The Bulldogs turn the ball over on 23 percent of their possessions, according to kenpom.com, one of the worst rates in the nation.

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