Score: WSU 79, Western Carolina 63
Key stats: The Shockers outscored the Catamounts 26-1 at the foul line.
How the game turned: WSU forced four turnovers and jumped to an 8-0 lead before Western Carolina took a shot.
Records: WCU 1-2, WSU 3-0
- In 2009-10, a Shocker scored 20 or more points seven times. In 2010-11, five times. Cleanthony Early has three games under his belt as a Shocker and he’s got a 20-point game already. It won’t be the last, both because of Early’s skills and the way this team is constructed. Each time out, Early looks smoother and more comfortable and contributes in more ways. He is averaging 14.7 points on 50 percent shooting and 13 of 14 from the line. He is also rebounding (6.3) and blocking shots (5 total). “I wouldn’t say I was nervous the first couple games, but playing in front of that crowd. . .you kind of don’t know how to handle it,” he said. “You start to get used to it. You start to be able to play your own game. I think that’s what happening.” Coach Gregg Marshall talked about Early’s unique blend of skills. He is 6-8, yet can move, shoot and handle the ball well enough to play guard. The only recent Shocker who could compare at power forward would be Kyle Wilson. “At one point, in the first half, I think (Early) had 15 (points) in 11 minutes,” Marshall said. “That’s pretty efficient. He’s a scorer. He’s a natural scorer.” Early hasn’t been good from three-point range (1-9). Marshall’s history indicates he will get chances to show he can make the shot. Early is essentially the sixth starter, playing starter minutes off the bench. That role seems to work well, because the bench, at this point, needs scoring punch.
- WSU has made 51 free throws to its opponents’ 23. If that trend continues through next week. the Shockers will be in good shape. Carl Hall and Early should get to the line often and both are making free throws at a red-hot pace.
- The Shockers are 14 of 56 (25 percent) from three-point range. Three games is too early to get too concerned, but it’s an issue to watch. Ron Baker and Evan Wessel are the only players shooting well. Either others must improve, or the Shockers will need to find other ways to score. Malcolm Armstead’s history says he will at least be an adequate outside shooter. He is 0-9 from three now. Demetric Williams is a career 34-percent shooter. Nick Wiggins’ development is crucial for this area. He can be a high-level three-point shooter, if the other areas of his game get him on the floor. Jake White is another good shooter who hasn’t played much this season.
- DePaul is not helping WSU with its loss to Gardner-Webb on Thursday.
- Colt Ryan is hurt. Doesn’t appear to be something that will cost him a significant number of games.
Next up: vs. Howard, 2 p.m. Saturday