Bob Lutz

Shocker home games continue to tilt to one side

The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State basketball is still the hottest ticket in town. Just don’t expect much heat when you go to a game.

Fans have been treated to 14 Koch Arena wins by 46, 37, 27, 37, 30, 30, 22, 34, 25, 12, 26, 42, 41 and 18 points.

Most of the games haven’t really been even that close.

When I asked WSU junior center Shaq Morris about the one-sidedness of these games after the Shockers’ 80-62 win over Missouri State on Thursday night, he carefully chose his words.

“I think, um, teams ... I think they think they can, of course, come in and try to beat us,” Morris said. “But playing at home for us is something that’s almost magical.”

And sleep-inducing.

This isn’t a knock on the Shockers, who do have a home loss. But that came at Intrust Bank Arena to Oklahoma State.

At Koch, Wichita State has run the table by putting their opponents through tables. It’s been a snooze-fest, a time better used by the sellout crowds of 10,506 to catch up with friends or check Facebook.

The Shockers are beating their Missouri Valley Conference brethren so far at Koch by an average of 28 points.

How much of this is because the Shockers are so good? And how much of this is because the Valley is so bad?

Let’s just say there are great cases to be made for both possibilities.

Wichita State is good, no question. And the Shockers are on a long run of being good that has resulted in only one Valley home loss during the past four seasons, which happened last season against Northern Iowa.

Otherwise, WSU has won 33 home conference games over the past four seasons and only twice have they won by fewer than 11 points.

I’ve always had a problem with people who leave games early, but in the case of a Wichita State basketball game you have tremendous resolve, or not much of a life, if you’re staying until the final buzzer. The late-game highlight has become the weather report shown on the videoboard during a timeout.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, a grinder who finds ways to keep his team engaged and motivated regardless of the scores, isn’t interested in debating the strength – or weakness – of the Valley. He is pointing his team toward March, when he hopes there will be tough, hard-fought games with high stakes.

“You’ll have to figure that out,” Marshall said when asked about the one-sidedness of home games. “I just know that we’ve got good players and we play pretty hard and we try to coach them the right way.”

Rather than dwell on the 55-21 lead Wichita State built over Missouri State early in the second half Thursday night, Marshall was most interested in talking about the 41-25 edge for the Bears during the game’s final 17-plus minutes.

“We get to go to their place (on Feb. 25) and now we’ve given them some confidence,” Marshall said. “I’m a little disappointed with how we played in the second half. That being said, we win by 18. This is a pretty talented team.”

Marshall said he would use Friday to put his team through a tough practice and a demanding video session with some of his pointed commentary. The Shockers are at Loyola on Sunday afternoon and the Ramblers are the one team that has pushed Wichita State at Koch this season, losing 87-75 in January.

The one team, that is, other than Augusta (Ga.), an NCAA Division II team that scared the dickens out of Wichita State in a November exhibition.

The Shockers built a 50-28 lead and held on as guard Keshun Sherrill started making shots from every angle to help pull Augusta to within 66-65 late before Wichita State won by six.

That Augusta team, by the way, is 18-6 and Sherrill, the best opposing player to perform at Koch this season, is averaging 22 points.

Who would have thought an exhibition against Augusta would provide the most excitement of the Shockers’ home basketball schedule?

Two more Valley teams – Northern Iowa (Feb. 18) and Evansville (Feb. 21) get a crack at the Shockers at Koch Arena. There’s not much reason, though, to think those games will look much different than the previous seven. Or the previous 14. Or, really, the previous four seasons.

Wichita State is dominating its conference the way it’s never been dominated.

Despite Shaq Morris’ attempt at diplomacy – and Shaq, it was a good effort – there isn’t a team in this conference that believes it can come into Koch Arena and win. Even competing is a challenge most can’t meet.

Since the 2013-14 season, Wichita State 33-1 against MVC teams at Koch and 18 of those wins have been by 20 or more points.

Shocker Basketball: Bring a pillow.

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