“If you’re a skeptic (on Wichita State), then that’s on you”.
---Drake coach and former Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacolleti , who called the current Shocker team “much better” than the one which beat Gonzaga in last year’s third round of the NCAA’s.
If you were going to split hairs on the Shockers, you would have pointed to some of their shooting performances over the past few weeks---not any more. Wichita State is averaging better than 83 points over its last five games, combine that with the way they generally defend and rebound and you’ve got…well, an unbeaten team. More than that, you’ve got an unbeaten team which stands a fair chance to stay that way.
Tekele Cotton’s seven steals against Drake ties a program record and helped the Shockers score 31 points off of 20 Bulldog turnovers. Add eight blocks to the equation and it’s a wonder that Drake managed to score 54 points, which, by the way, is their season low. Wichita State has held 7 opponents to their lowest scoring total of the season (Western Kentucky, Tulsa, Illinois St., Indiana St., Bradley, Loyola and Drake) and has held two others (BYU and UNI) to their second lowest point totals of the season.
Better than a year ago?
---Giacolleti thinks so, but Gregg Marshall is a little more hesitant to make the comparison. He does allow that this is a better offensive unit and at the same juncture of the season they’ve accomplished more than a year ago. What he doesn’t need to point out is that the league was a lot better a year ago. What everyone needs to remember is that this can be a better team than a year ago and not win games in the NCAA, you only have to go back to the year before last(in Portland) for confirmation.
Not like there was a lot of doubt, but Indiana State’s loss at Missouri State earlier in the day delivered the MVC title to Wichita State before they even came to the gym Saturday night. Cutting down nets never gets old, but Fred Van Vleet told me that it was more for the fans than it was the team. In his words: “This is over tonight and then we get back to work for Bradley(next Tuesday)”. That attitude is typical of every player in the Shocker locker room.
---other than about seven or eight Shocker throw downs after Drake turnovers: Evan Wessel hitting both of his three points attempts, produced the biggest smiles on the Shocker bench. The sophomore out of Heights has hit three of his last four from deep after missing his first 21 triple attempts of the season. The great thing about Evan is that his shooting struggles never affected the way he competed defensively or on the glass---with a little offensive confidence, he becomes a much more important piece of the puzzle in March.
John Robert Simon wasn’t even counting on playing; the freshman out of Oklahoma City had been suffering over the death of his best friend and was in a sweat suit on the bench in the second half when his teammates cajoled him into going back and getting dressed. They wanted to lift him up by being a part of a championship moment on the floor, those are the precious times within a team that can make sports so compelling. I hope it helps him in the healing process.
Good night to have them there---
The Shockers were hosting a handful of recruits and, according to Gregg Marshall, they were blown away by the atmosphere---how couldn’t they be. One of the youngsters they’re courting is Shake Milton, a 6’3” guard out of Owasso, Oklahoma. It’s the same high school which produced the Bluma brothers for Shocker baseball and the young man is a dynamic offensive talent.
I saw him score 36 in a losing cause last week. He scored in every way imaginable-- from deep, in transition, with the pull up jumper, taking it all the way to the hole in traffic. Even though he’s slight of frame he took contact extremely well producing three or four ‘and ones’. Like a lot of high school juniors the rest of his game needs attention or urgency—but he’s an incredible scorer.