Wichita State is usually untouchable at home and their reputation for ‘playing angry’ can turn basketball arenas into torture chambers. But on Saturday, it was the Oklahoma State Cowboys who inflicted the pain. Playing in Wichita’s INTRUST Bank Arena, the Cowboys came away with a 93-76 victory.
The 49 points Wichita State allowed in the first half were more than they allowed overall in three of their previous 11 games. WSU hadn’t allowed more than 79 points in any game this season. Wichita State (9-3) normally dominates the rebounding battle, but at the half, trailed on the rebounding ledger, 21-12.
The Cowboys (9-2) did to the Shockers what Wichita State usually does to the opposition. They beat them on the glass, forced turnovers, and played tenacious defense.
Some questions and observations:
Who will handle the rock?
Statistically, the Wichita State guards have amazing assist-to-turnover ratios. Most of them shoot the three-point shot well, but in crunch time, who is this team’s quarterback? None of the four main guards (Landry Shamet, Daishon Smith, Austin Reaves, and Conner Frankamp) average more than 8.3 points per game. While Shamet and Frankamp play the most minutes, no one plays more than 22 minutes per game.
Frankamp and Smith are juniors, but it is Smith’s first season with Gregg Marshall’s team and Frankamp has only been game eligible since January of last year. Shamet and Reaves are freshmen. Perhaps the collective group just lacks the experience to lead a team.
They are still looking for the right rotation.
The Shockers have great depth and outstanding talent, but they seem to lack continuity and role definition. WSU players and coaches are still trying to find out who will take the big shot and which players work well together. Yes, the Shockers miss the talent and skill of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, but what they miss their leadership even more.
Only Markis McDuffie, Shamet, and Frankamp play as much as 22 minutes per game. Perhaps if Marshall shortened his bench some, players would figure out what they can and cannot do in game competition.
Will Shaquille Morris step up?
Junior center Shaquille Morris was named to the Valley’s preseason second-team all conference squad, but the 6’8, 265 pound post player just doesn’t play enough to be a legitmate force. Only Marshall knows why Morris plays less than 18 minutes per game and can’t seem to be the dominating player many have been waiting to see.
Perhaps junior college transfer Darral Willis is taking his minutes. The 6’9 forward recorded a double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) in Saturday’s loss and has reached double figures in scoring in five of the last six games.
Does it matter?
The Shockers should dominate the Missouri Valley, win the conference tournament and get into the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-straight season. Perhaps by the time Arch Madness rolls around, they will have answered these questions.
The Shockers hope to get healthy against South Dakota State on Dec. 22 and then begin Valley play at Indiana State on Dec. 28.