Bob Lutz

Marshall isn't happy with everything he hears

There was a smattering of boos Wednesday night at Koch Arena when Wichita State fell behind Evansville by six points in the second half.

A smattering.

It came from a small group of people seated in various spots around the arena, people obviously frustrated by what, up to then, was a lackluster performance against the worst team in the Missouri Valley Conference whose only Valley win came last week against the Shockers in Evansville.

Booing the home team is a bad idea. It's especially unforgivable to boo a team that is 21-6, even if that team hasn't been playing very well the past three weeks.

Especially if that team hasn't been playing well.

You can make the argument that the Shockers have never needed their fans more, and most of them — the great majority of them — are steadfastly behind this team through thick and thin. The way they always have been.

That's why 10,410 of them — 94 short of a sellout — showed up to watch the Shockers play a 1-14 Valley team in a game in which WSU was an 18-point favorite.

It took overtime to beat the Purple Aces 76-70, and after the game that small group of fans who voiced their displeasure were in the sights of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall.

When Marshall heard the booing, his eyes shot toward the area where it was coming from. He glared at no one in particular, but it was a glare that could have stopped a locomotive.

Marshall was more angry than hurt, but it's his explanation for why the booing happened that floored me. Because he thinks it goes back to a column I wrote last week after the loss at Evansville, calling it the worst WSU defeat — because of the circumstances — in 40 years.

I stand by the column and, truthfully, am getting tired of defending it to Marshall. But so be it. He's not going to let it go any time soon.

In the middle of his post-game news conference, and not in response to a question, Marshall took off on the booing.

"I think your article about the worst loss in the history of basketball, I think that promotes the booing,'' he said. "I think people latch on to that. They want to boo a team that is 22-6. They want to boo a bunch of young kids who are busting their tails?

"You know what? I would prefer that that group of people stay home. The people who do that, they jump on and latch on to something negative. They love it.''

In Marshall's mind, my column buoyed the Shocker naysayers. Inspired by my "negativity," those fans felt brave enough to cut loose with boos, to send a message that they weren't satisfied with Marshall or his team.

I can't get into the mind of someone who boos the home team. Or the opposing team. Or even the officials. I've never really been one who boos a lot. I don't understand the premise. Most of us attempt to teach our children not to boo, right? Then why do so many people boo?

I don't blame Marshall for calling those people out, though I do think he's making a much bigger deal of it than it needs to be. It was a few people expressing their feelings in a non-productive way.

But to say my column incited those who were booing is borderline irrational. First of all, the column wasn't really that negative. It pointed out that a loss to a previously winless conference team probably cost the Shockers any chance they had at an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. And it made the case, backed by facts, that it was the most damaging loss for WSU basketball in a couple of generations.

Hardly earth-shattering stuff, given the stakes of the loss.

Marshall is angry. He's fortunate the Shockers survived Evansville in Wednesday's re-match; the Purple Aces had a chance to win the game in regulation if freshman Ned Cox had made the three free throws he was given after allegedly being fouled by Clevin Hannah with .3 seconds to play.

Speaking of boos, they cascaded down after referee Mike Thibodeaux's call because if Cox was fouled, it did not appear to happen while he was in the act of shooting.

It was a tense game from start to finish. Give Evansville credit for fighting; the Aces obviously haven't given up on a disastrous season.

Give Wichita State credit for finding a way to pull the game out. Marshall acknowledged the Shockers have hit a wall of late and aren't playing with the same energy they had in January.

"I'm not sure we're as good as everyone thought we were,'' he said.

Maybe not, but 22-6 is nothing to sneeze at. Or to boo at.

I do not promote booing, under any circumstance. And if my columns lead you to believe otherwise, well, boo hoo.

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