For as long as Gregg Marshall has coached basketball, it’s been about getting his teams to defend. It’s the first, second and third priority.
His players defend or they don’t play. They rebound, play smart, don’t turn the ball over. Or else.
But Marshall, who by the way isn’t opposed to a team that can score, has a different animal this season. And how.
The Shockers continued their hot-shooting ways Saturday in an 86-67 win over Missouri State at the JQH Arena.
A bucket of ice water couldn’t have chilled guard Landry Shamet, who led Wichita State with 23 points and made 9 of 13 shots.
His running mate, junior Conner Frankamp, got it going late and made 6 of 10 for 14 points.
Center Shaq Morris was 8 of 11 for 20 points.
Wichita State shot 54.1 percent overall, 42.3 percent from the three-point line and made 9 of 11 free throws.
Missouri State guard Dequon Miller talked about how well the Bears played, and he was right. But they still lost by 19, which says all you need to know about the level at which the Shockers are playing.
“The answer is no, I haven’t had this kind of offensive team,” Marshall said after another journey into the 80s, the Shockers’ ninth during a 12-game winning streak. “I think this may be my best offensive team in my 19 years and the reason for that is we have so many different weapons at any given time on the floor.”
That’s why the Shockers were able to score 86 and win by 19 on a day when Markis McDuffie and Zach Brown were 3 of 13. Because Shamet, Morris and Frankamp were 23 of 34.
It’s always someone for Wichita State and frequently someone different, although it’s hard to get more consistent than Shamet and Frankamp have been over the past month.
The 6-foot-4 Shamet was a 36.3-percent three-point shooter through the Shockers’ first 11 games but has been at 50 percent (48 of 96) since and is at 58 percent in the past 12.
Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said the Shockers are a better team than what won the Valley last season with a 16-2 record, went 26-9, produced two NBA players and won two games in the NCAA Tournament.
“You might say, ‘Well, you’re out of your mind,’ but I just think their team is better,” Lusk said. “Landry Shamet is a 6-4 point guard and I think someday he has a chance to be where (Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet) are.”
The Shockers have hit another gear and it’s hard to know whether it’s because of the low level of competition in the Valley, the high level of their play or – most likely – a combination of both.
It’s difficult to imagine this team not being competitive with any team in the country, let alone sitting on pins and needles on Selection Sunday.
Remember, the selection committee watches basketball games. It doesn’t just sit around sipping coffee and waiting for somebody to drop the latest statistical analysis in their laps.
And if they’re watching the Shockers, how can there be a doubt?
“I said early in the year that I thought this team was going to be better than last year’s team offensively,” Marshall said. “I don’t know if I said it was going to be my best, though. I did say we could score the ball very easily, very well, and that there were a lot of different guys who can do it. The talent out there is obvious.”
The efficiency is crazy. The Shockers have 44 assists to eight turnovers the past two games and Shamet and Frankamp finished the 18-game Valley run with 123 assists and 29 turnovers.
You can make the argument for this being Wichita State’s best offensive team.
The Shockers’ 82.5 points are their most since averaging 88.8 in 1978-79.
Their 48 percent field-goal percentage is the best since 2011-12 (48.2).
WSU is shooting 40.6 percent from the three-point line and could be the Shockers’ first 40-percent three-point-shooting team since the 1988-89 team shot 42.1.
And Wichita State knocks down free throws. It’s 73.2 percentage is the fifth-highest since 1967-68.
Remember, too, that 22 of the 27 wins have been by 15 points or more. This team regularly empties its bench early, takes it foot off the gas, so nobody is playing more than 26 minutes.
Give Shamet eight more minutes, which would bring him to a reasonable 33.8, and he’s averaging 14.4 points.
Give McDuffie another eight minutes and he’s at 15.7. Darral Willis would be at 15 points with those eight minutes while Morris (13.3) and Frankamp (11.3) would also see a significant boost.
This is a scary team, one that has managed to retain a chip on its shoulder throughout the most successful run in Shocker history.
You want to think Wichita State is going to slip after the loss of Baker and VanVleet? It’s certainly reasonable, but there’s no way these guys were going to let that happen.
The Shockers average 10 more points than last season’s team. They shoot significantly better and get more rebounds.
No, they’re not quite as good defensively. But with this lethal offense, they don’t have to be.