Wichita State’s much-debated depth is back on the bright side. With two superb efforts from most of the of 10-man rotation, the Shockers are in the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Against Nebraska, David Kyles came off the bench to lead WSU’s three-point barrage, scoring a team-high 13 points. Ben Smith added nine points and five rebounds. Against Virginia Tech on Sunday, center J.T. Durley fouled out and Garrett Stutz replaced him with seven straight points in overtime. Coach Gregg Marshall shortened his bench, in part due to Demetric Williams’ knee injury, against the Hokies. He still played four reserves 11 or more minutes and the Shockers looked plenty fresh in OT.
A lot of Shockers are playing well. The Shockers can’t depend on one or two scorers to carry the offense, so everybody must pitch in for it to work. Toure Murry is 10 of 17 with good defensive efforts on Nebraska’s Lance Jeter and Tech’s Malcolm Delaney. Graham Hatch is averaging 12.5 points in two NIT games, more than double his season average. Joe Ragland is 4 of 8 from three with a game-winning shot, six assists, three steals and three turnovers. Gabe Blair had 10 rebounds and four assists without a turnover Sunday.
“We had a lot of good performances, similar to the Nebraska game,” Marshall said Sunday.
Gabe Blair was tremendous. (Graham) Hatch shot the ball well, and big Garrett with his touches late, just sticking the ball in the basket.”
Toure Murry had to be the most relieved Shocker. He recovered after early turnovers – sometimes a sign he’s in for a long night – to give an MVP performance. He scored. He rebounded. He defended Delaney. Murry played under control. After two turnovers in the first two minutes, he played 34 more with one and four assists. He made two plays that will get overlooked, but deserve mention. With 4:50 to play, he caused Erick Green to walk by getting in his way after an outlet pass. On the possession, Hatch scored to give WSU a 63-57 lead. In overtime, Murry lofted a pass over a defender and dropped it perfectly into Stutz’s hands for a layup and a 76-74 lead with 1:05 to play.
“He found his stroke and found his confidence,” Ragland said. “We’re confident in any of our guys. That’s one thing I love about Coach Marshall. He’s confident in whoever’s at that position. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a superstar. He believes in you, and he gives you the confidence. “
- Blair had 10 rebounds, seven in the second half. He seemed to vacuum up every crucial possession late in the game. “It’s tough to block out in a zone, and it’s tough to block out a man who won’t be blocked out,” he said.
- Ragland said he said something, but not a profanity, to the defender after a layup early in the second half. The referee gave him a technical for the woofing. “I was in his ear, I was excited,” Ragland said. “The ref thought it was a little too much.”
- It took awhile for WSU to adjust to Virginia Tech’s aggressive zone. The Hokies make it tough to pass through their long arms. WSU had its best success getting the ball into the lane and making short, quick passes. It also used the lob play to Blair and Aaron Ellis to damage the zone. “They’re pretty active in the zone, especially up top,” Blair said. “We tried to attack the back side of it. The back side was kind of weak.”
- This is WSU’s best run in 12 NIT appearances. It is WSU’s third quarterfinal appearance. In the first two, however, the Shockers were seeded into the quarters (1963, 1966) and didn’t win a game in smaller fields. In 2005, WSU won two games in a 40-team field. The first game was considered an opening round game. The Shockers lost at Vanderbilt in the second round, falling short of the quarters. The NIT is back to 32 teams, and WSU owns a first- and second-round win heading into Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
- Virginia Tech’s Victor Davila banged his injured shoulder on a dunk with just over six minutes to play. He came out soon after and was unable to return. “I would suspect it’s probably a torn labrum or rotator cuff,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “I was hesitant to even play him at all in the second half. You could see the pain he was in.” With Davila out and forward Jeff Allen benched with five fouls, Stutz went to work in overtime.
- Everybody in the gym thought about the crazy end to the Pitt-Butler NCAA game when Murry defended Delaney in the final two seconds. Marshall didn’t mind Murry being aggressive. “Murry did a great job,” he said. “It was … eerily similar to the (Butler-Pitt) play. There was no contact, but Delaney put his foot on the line.”
- Greenberg’s team ended its season in the NIT for a fourth straight season. That’s a tough finish for an ACC team, especially with a two-time All-ACC guard in Delaney. “They’re not going to be defined by the NCAA Tournament,” Greenberg said. “These guys won a lot of games. These kids played their tails off for four years. Anyone who doesn’t think they accomplished a great deal – that’s their problem. We’re not going to be defined by a group of 10 people in a room. We’re going to be defined by what they did every single day for four years, and that’s win a lot of games.” Injuries played a large role. Four of Virginia Tech’s top nine players entering the season missed all or most of the season.
- The Shockers will hear a lot of “Going to New York” talk before Wednesday’s game. That’s dangerous. The College of Charleston doesn’t appear to be a team to mess with. It already won two road games. All the pressure shifts to WSU, playing at home with a chance to advance. Cougars coach Bobby Cremins knows all the angles. Southern Conference Player of the Year Andrew Goudelock, a senior guard, averages 23.5 points and scored 39 at Dayton in the first round. The Cougars won the Southern Conference and defeated Tennessee in December. Three of its non-conference losses are to Maryland, North Carolina and Clemson.
Around the NIT
- The short-handed Hokies felt fortunate to get to to overtime.
- Marshall’s time as head coach at the College of Charleston ended quickly, allowing Bobby Cremins to take over.
- Tad Boyle’s first Colorado team is one of the school’s best.