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Wichita State vs. Indiana State Game Recap: Shockers Go From Good to Great

Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker combined to make sure that Indiana State's best players didn't beat Wichita State on Wednesday night. It was when they didn't combine that things got a little dicey for the Shockers.

Michael Hickey

Good teams know how to win when things are all going their way. Great teams know how to survive when the chips are down and nothing is quite right.

Great teams go on to do amazing things, like run to Final Fours, or say, go undefeated during the regular season.

Great teams know how to make things happen.

It is time to give Wichita State the label of "Great". When things just couldn't go right for them in any facet of the game where they excel, they still managed to score a win. But not just a win, a win in a hostile environment, against a team that had everything to prove against the Shockers.

In front of more than 9,500 screaming blue clad fans, Wichita State found a way to defeat Indiana State, 65-58.

Step back for a second and consider that when you defeat a team by 20 points -- and really when you embarrass them in front of a national audience looking for any reason to not care about Indiana State -- you are looking for a tough match when you go to their place a few weeks later. You need to be ready for that.

So maybe things started to go badly when Terre Haute had more than half of a foot of snow dumped on it Tuesday night, causing Wichita State's travel plans to be delayed.

Perhaps that plays with your mental preparation, and causes you not to make the best decisions.

But tell that to Coach Gregg Marshall and he will tell you that there are no excuses. You don't always have perfect travel, not now, not in March.

When you struggle, you get beat on the glass. You see rebounds that normally you crash and grab fall right into the other team's hands; You get outhustled; You forget the preparation that got you there.

Wichita State doesn't get beat in rebounds too often, and when they do, it doesn't go well. They were 7-6 in games where they had failed to be as clean on the glass as their opponents over the past three season. The Shockers were kind of mortal when they can't rebound.

The Sycamores had the Shockers down on the boards after the first half and kept that edge until the end of the game. More damaging was that Indiana State used these extra boards to grab a fair share of second half points.

They were beating Wichita State at its own game.

Or consider turnovers, where Wichita State had 12 to Indiana State's nine. And of course Indiana State had the edge in points off turnovers.

Yes, Indiana State was playing as if they were the team that normally wore yellow.

The difference is that while Indiana State might be a good team -- and you have to say might because of this next part -- Wichita State is a great team.

Marshall made adjustments to correct things, swapping around the defense of Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker to help cover the most dangerous threats.

It is no coincidence that when Cotton was playing defense against a Sycamore player, the announcers rarely called his name. If you weren't watching for it, you would miss it too. The announcers gave Cotton a slight shoutout but if you weren't listening at just the right moment, you might have missed it.

Manny Arop? He had a great run in the first half, but only after Cotton wasn't on him again. Cotton was busy tracking down Jake Odum then and not letting him beat them.

And when Cotton was occupied, the other decent player went to Rob Baker to keep under control.

You could tell the effect that Baker was having. When he disappeared from the floor with foul trouble, that was when the Sycamores made their runs. That was when things looked the most dire for this run of now 24 games that Wichita State has won in a row.

That was when you would have to worry if you were a fan clad in yellow.

The fourth foul might have been the worst, because it came with almost four minutes left in the game. You are in a position where you can't make a good decision about whether to pull Baker and take your chances, or leave him out there, and potentially lose him for good.

Baker went to the bench briefly but was bailed out when Indiana State lost its shooter's touch at the free throw line. In the final four minutes, the Sycamores missed five free throws.

See, not everything was going the way of Indiana State.

The dynamic duo of Cotton and Baker was potent, making it difficult for the best players at Indiana State to go off against them.

And so while Cleanthony Early scored a game-high 19 points with some pretty impressive moves to the basket on the low post, he may not have been the MVP for the Shockers. That is because of how good the defense of Cotton and Baker was.
The two combined to be shutdown artists, and that is when Wichita State was at its greatest.

Greatest, like the team that played in Terre Haute back some 35 years ago. Greatest, like better than the Final Four team that had several key seniors. Greatest like they deserve a No. 1 seed and should be favored to make the Final Four again.

That is this Wichita State team. Not good, just great.