Wichita State is proving to be a team Forrest Gump would love.
The Shockers truly are a box of chocolates. And nobody seems to know what they’re going to get.
It was another WSU blowout Wednesday night at Koch Arena, 80-53 over Tulsa. Except this one as different.
Remember how the guards were so efficient and productive in the Shockers’ 37-point win over Long Beach State ago way back four days ago?
Well, the Shockers’ starting guards Wednesday — Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp — did not score and missed all nine of their shots. Reserve guard Daishon Smith did not score and missed three shots.
Still, Wichita State won by 27 because a bunch of other Shockers had big nights off the bench.
And “off the bench” with this team does not reflect an accurate description of what that term normally insinuates.
Because the Shockers don’t have a bench. Sure, there are chairs the non-starters sit in as they await their numbers to be called. But this is a team that goes at least 11 players deep. Maybe 12. Heck, there may be no bottom to Wichita State’s depth.
“It’s difficult at times to have the right five out there,” said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, who has to put together this jigsaw puzzle. “But by and large, with this kind of depth, you know you’re going to get five guys in the game who compete hard. We have a lot of guys who do things well, different things well.”
If someone told Tulsa coach Frank Haith that Wichita State center Shaq Morris would play only 10 minutes and that the Shocker guards would stink it up from the field, he might have liked the Golden Hurricane’s chances.
Except that Haith is no dummy and he knows the Shockers aren’t always driven by the same guy or guys.
“They got a lot of parts,” Haith said. “That’s a deep team and they can look at a lot of guys. Their post guys are very good and they can rotate their guys.”
The Shockers’ “bench” outscored Tulsa 52-20. Markis McDuffie scored 18, Darral Willis 16 and Zach Brown — who actually started — added 15.
WSU owned the boards, outrebounding Tulsa 52-30. The Shockers’ defense limited the Hurricane to 33 percent shooting and Wichita State made 20 of 26 free throws, which in this time of one foul after another being whistled is a big advantage. Tulsa was just 11 of 21 from the line.
There were times Wednesday when the Shockers struggled and couldn’t get their offense going. But there were also times when they overpowered Tulsa. It happened with a 14-0 run in the first half that allowed the Shockers to build a 37-20 lead.
And a 16-0 run in the second half buried the Hurricane after they had gotten to within 12, 55-43.
Logic would dictate that these Shockers would be struggling with withdrawal after the losses of All-Missouri Valley guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Instead, Wichita State has taken it up a notch.
It’s crazy and unexplainable and man, fun to watch.
“It was just a day for me, Darral and Markis tonight,” said Brown, who dominated the second-half run with 11 quick points. “I would say everybody on this team is going to have a day like that. That’s just the team we are.”
McDuffie, who also had seven rebounds and four assists, said about the same thing.
“Of course we want everybody to be consistent, to get going and for everyone to have a good game,” he said. “But it just shows how many players we have and how many guys are ready to step up.”
Before McDuffie finished that sentence, Willis interrupted.
“It shows how good we are,” he said.
McDuffie didn’t seem to appreciate being cut off, but this does look like a team of which the players will be able to finish one another’s sentences.
It’ll get tougher than it has been. Wichita State is certain to run into heavy opposition in the Bahamas next week during the Battle for Atlantis. We’ve yet to see a battle yet, however. and the Shockers are providing a lot for everyone’s imagination.
The only thing holding us back from complete hysteria and hyperbole is the earliness of the season. And, to a lesser degree, the opponents. Do South Carolina State, Long Beach State and Tulsa provide a realistic barometer?
The numbers are crazy. WSU’s opponents are shooting 30.6 percent from the field and 19 percent from the three-point line. Wichita State has averaged 18 rebounds more per game. The Shockers have 35 more assists, 13 more blocks and 10 more steals.
If there’s a positive for the Shockers’ opponents, it’s that the margin is coming down — from 46 to 37 to 27.
Obviously, Wichita State is struggling.