Key statistics: Northern Iowa made 24 of 40 shots (60 percent), shredding a defense that holds teams to 40.4 percent and allowed one other team (Hawaii) to break 70 this season. The past seven opponents failed to top 55.
Records: WSU 19-3, 9-1 MVC; UNI 20-2, 9-1
How the game turned: WSU, tied 18-all, closed the half missing 8 of 10 shots and committing four turnovers and reacting poorly to UNI’s physical defense. The Panthers took advantage to build a 19-6 run and led 37-24 at halftime. WSU got no closer than 14 in the second half.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: The Shockers grabbed eight offensive rebounds, six more than UNI. Those boards, however, produced onl five second-chance points for WSU.
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Stat that might surprise you: Pick one: WSU shot 35.4 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from three and allowed UNI to shoot 60 percent. Ron Baker missed 8 of 10 threes and Fred VanVleet had more turnovers (four) than assists (three). All of those in one game? Nicely done, Panthers.
Next up: at Bradley (7-16, 2-8), 7 p.m. Wednesday (Cox 22)
▪ Last season, MVC teams didn’t believe they could beat the Shockers. This season, UNI believes.
“We didn’t expect to come in here and beat them the way we did,” UNI senior Seth Tuttle said. “We didn’t really talk about coming in here and beating them by one or two. We talked about coming in here and beating them by 15. That’s what we were trying to do.”
WSU will console itself with the thought that everything went wrong and everything went right for the Panthers. That reflex was already cooking post-game. UNI plays fantastic defense, but it’s hard to imagine WSU missing 19 of 24 threes again. UNI is a deep, smart offensive machine, but it’s hard to imagine the Panthers making 60 percent of their shots too often.
“They made every shot,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “You have to take advantage when you get opportunities and knock down shots. We didn’t do that. And they did.”
UNI coach Ben Jacobson recognized the confluence of events that led to the rout. He doesn’t expect to duplicate them in Koch Arena or St. Louis. That doesn’t mean the Shockers are home free in future meetings, but Saturday’s recipe may not work again.
“Wichita had some open shots that didn’t go in that are going to go in on most nights,” he said. “But our guys defended hard.”
The Panthers built to this game since last season when the Shockers dominated the MVC. Jacobson pushed his team to play tougher defense. With a roster containing five seniors and five juniors, UNI possesses the edge in physical and mental maturity WSU often owns.
“They came in and did what they needed to do,” Baker said. “Their back was against the wall. It was a must-win for them.”
▪ The Panthers didn’t need to beat WSU to legitimize their season, not with wins over Stephen F Austin, Richmond and Iowa and a two-overtime loss at VCU. Saturday certainly helps their case, however, and it makes the MVC look good. There is an overflowing of respect for WSU nationally and the Panthers grabbed some of that.
“That’s a team that’s been in the top 10, or just outside, for three years in a row,” Jacobson said. “That’s a terrific, terrific ball-club. We’ve got to be able to use it and add it to our confidence, but we can’t try to make too much out of it.”
▪ The last team to beat WSU by more than 16 points was Illinois State, 72-52, to open the 2009-10 MVC schedule.
▪ It is rare to see Wichita State decisively beaten by depth. Even this season, when WSU isn’t as deep as usual, the reserves can do enough to make it competitive. Not on Saturday. Freshman Shaq Morris scored six points , blocked two shots and grabbed three rebounds in 13 minutes.
WSU’s other reserves contributed one point (Rashard Kelly) and generally didn’t look they were ready for this task. It was a mismatch against UNI’s more experienced reserves. Players such as Wes Washpun, Nate Buss and Paul Jesperson give coach Ben Jacobson many options with big and small lineups, in addition to the usual benefits such as rest and fouls.
“It’s a luxury to have, and they certainly have it,” Marshall said.
WSU coaches have a month to cut into that edge. Sometimes players such as Kelly and Zach Brown look like they’re ready. Saturday, however, was a step back against high-level teams.
▪ Bradley is reeling with suspensions after its seventh loss in eight games on Saturday, 64-58 at Indiana State. Guards Warren Jones, Omari Grier and Ka’Darryl Bell did not play and, according to the Peoria Journal Star, the suspensions could continue for some or all of the players.
Jones is Bradley’s leading scorer at 13.9 points. Bell started all previous 22 games and Grier averages 8.2 points.