Bob Lutz

Shockers' Murry getting the point

Toure Murry proved that it's not necessary to score a bunch of points to take over a basketball game.

The Wichita State junior again wasn't in the starting lineup for Monday night's game against UMKC at Koch Arena, but the game changed when he got in.

And not because of his nine points.

It was Murry's heady play at point guard and his relentless defense on the Kangaroos' Reggie Chamberlain that changed the game, helping the Shockers overcome a 19-12 deficit to outscore UMKC 25-4 the rest of the first half and cruise to a 71-52 win.

The 6-foot-4 Murry doesn't look like a point guard. But his high energy was just what road-weary Wichita State needed two days after returning from the sun and fun of Maui.

You try getting off a plane after a week in paradise only to feel the chill of a 30-mph wind slap you in the face. For about eight minutes Monday, the Shockers played as if their feet were frozen in ice.

Murry provided the jolt.

He all but put Chamberlain in the witness protection program, limiting his former WSU teammate, who had 12 points in the first eight minutes, to a free throw the rest of the first half. When Murry was in the game, Chamberlain wasn't. It was that stark of a difference.

The UMKC junior guard did hit a three-pointer against Murry in the second half, but it was from deep as the shot clock was about to expire. It was desperation.

"Toure was really, really good,'' WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "He was the one guy whose length, athleticism and size gave (Chamberlain) some problems.''

Every time I see Murry at the point, he excels. He did have some defensive problems in Maui while trying to cover Connecticut guard Kemba Walker in the second half of the Shockers' first-round loss. But a blanket can't cover Walker these days.

WSU has outstanding guard depth; Murry recently lost his starting job to junior Joe Ragland. But Ragland has had difficulty keeping offensive players in front of him and Marshall didn't hesitate to substitute Murry against UMKC.

"Toure and David Kyles were creating havoc with their defense,'' Marshall said.

Murry had four first-half points on 1-of-4 shooting. But so what?

He also had seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. When the Shockers were turning the game around, Murry was the No. 1 turner.

Best of all, he said he likes playing point guard. I wondered, because he has a scorer's mentality and some of his best moments as a Shocker have come while taking the last shot of a game. In those situations, he's always thought about shooting first.

Point guards don't normally think that way.

"I like playing the point,'' Murry said. "I feel like when we get into transition we're just a lot better team. I like passing the ball and getting our shooters wide-open shots.''

Don't worry, Murry isn't giving up scoring. He finished with nine points and made both of the shots he took in the second half.

"I'll still score,'' he said. "But that's one of the things I have to sacrifice sometimes for the team. I'm not a selfish player.''

Anything but.

Murry all but served up a couple of baskets for 7-footer Garrett Stutz. And during one transition break, he gave up scoring to get the ball to teammate Gabe Blair, who was fouled going to the basket.

"Toure just puts so much pressure on a defense,'' teammate Graham Hatch said. "He did such a great job of passing tonight.''

It was as a defender, though, that Murry made his biggest contribution.

Chamberlain, who spent a year at WSU after transferring from Seward County Community College, is a shooter. The Shockers knew that when he was here. Yet Chamberlain was able to spot up for open shots early in the game and once drove by Ragland for a layup.

Murry shut it all down.

"Reggie's not that athletic, but he can sure shoot the ball,'' Murry said. "I just tried to make it tough for him, tried to slow him down a little bit. But he still had 20.''

Not much of that was on Murry's watch, though.

It will be interesting to see how much Murry plays at the point going forward.

"He's an assertive, take-charge guy,'' Marshall said. "Not verbally, but in the way he plays. He loves to push the ball in transition and he loves having the ball in his hands.''

There were a couple of times when Murry dribbled into traffic and turned the ball over. He kicked himself over those mistakes.

"It's all part of learning,'' Murry said.

He and Kyles are a potent backcourt combination. Ragland, though, played well in Hawaii and sophomore Demetric Williams is a capable point guard, too.

"I think if Toure could become the consummate point guard and think pass first, run the team and be a little more vocal,'' Marshall said, "then it would really help him, help us and it might give him the best chance to play at the next level.''

I believe. Marshall believes. And Murry, I think, it starting to.