This one was all about practice

By Jenn Bates, jbates@kwch.com
Published On: Dec 14 2013 08:11:50 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 14 2013 08:30:56 PM CST
Tekele Cotton

Clint Harden

Tekele Cotton scored 19 points in the Shockers win vs. Tennessee, Saturday at INTRUST Bank Arena

WICHITA, Kan. -

Up until 40 minutes before tip-off, Coach Gregg Marshall thought Ron Baker wasn't going to play.  

"I thought it was broken," Marshall said of Baker's sprained ankle. "It looked like there were golf balls right under his skin, it was nasty."

It was nasty, and everyone saw it at practice on Thursday.  At that point, Wichita State was game-planning against Tennessee without their most physical player.  Come Friday's practice at Intrust Bank Arena coach Gregg Marshall was still looking for who would step up.  

"We come here to practice yesterday and {Tekele} Cotton, was a man possessed.  Maybe it was, Ok, Ron's out, we need something else from Tekele Cotton other than just great defense and rebounding.  We don't need him to be a third option, scoring-wise, or a fourth option, we need him to be an option."

In the second half Cotton made himself the main option for the Shockers.  He scored all of his 19 points in the final 20 minutes of the game and tacked on 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and one block with no turnovers.  Coach Marshall says he saw a game like that coming all because of that practice on Friday.

"He took over practice yesterday like I've never seen him play.  So I didn't say a word, I texted him last night, I go 'Hey um, who was that guy you brought to practice today?' And he goes, 'Haha, coach that was me.' And I go, 'well make sure you bring him tomorrow because I like him.'"

And it wasn't just Cotton who brought his game in the second half.  Junior college transfer Darius Carter finally showed signs of catching up with the speed of Division 1 basketball.

 "I know there's been some doubters but I've been telling everyone that he's gonna be a really good player," Marshall said.  "He's just trying to get his feet wet, he's trying to learn what it takes to compete and win at this level of college basketball."

Carter mainly impressed Marshall with his 14 rebounds in the game.  Marshall called it a break-out performance for Carter, but Darius says it all goes back to how the team preps for games.  

"Coming in we knew they (Tennessee) were pretty big guys so coach had a lot of emphasis on rebounding in practice.  So I just went out there with that mindset and tried to get all the rebounds I could," said Carter.

For this team it truly does all come back to practice.  It also seems that Ron Baker is right when the said after the game, "if it's not one thing it's another with me."

Coach Marshall calls it unimaginable that Baker played 32 minutes with how nasty his ankle looked just two days previous.  He spoke of the toughness of Baker.  He spoke of the toughness of his team, about how this team will do anything to win.   He talked about how they're used to winning now.  Coach Marshall is used to winning, too.  And he also knows that winning all starts in one place, and I'm not talking about the game.