Score: WSU 75, DePaul 62
Key stats: WSU made 18 of 35 shots (51.4 percent) in the second half while holding DePaul to 9 of 30. The Blue Demons outscored WSU by 12 points at the line, but made just 15 baskets.
How the game turned: WSU’s Demetric Williams kept the Shockers in control in the second half with two big plays. After DePaul cut the lead to three early in the half, his three-point play started a 7-2 run. After a Brandon Young three with 2:15 remaining brought DePaul within 62-57, Williams responded with a three from the wing for a 65-57 lead. DePaul didn’t get closer than seven.
Records: WSU 5-0, DePaul 2-2
- For the first time this season, WSU needed its depth. Foul trouble put the Shockers in a tough position and the reserves responded. Williams played an excellent defensive game (four steals) and scored a career-high 18 points. Jake White played a season-high 17 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds. Cleanthony Early added eight points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes, his time cut by fouls. Tekele Cotton shot poorly, but helped handle the ball and played good defense. With Ron Baker, Evan Wessel and Early all in foul trouble, WSU needed help from some guys who haven’t played major roles so far. They came through. “You’ve just got to stay in the game and when my number is called, play to the best of my ability,” White said.
- Malcolm Armstead, Williams and freshman Fred VanVleet (in seven minutes) handled DePaul’s pressure soundly. It is also important to recognize that beating that pressure is a team effort. Some big men or wings don’t really want the ball against pressure. WSU’s secondary ball-handlers get open, call for the ball and make good decisions with their passes. Looking confident is half the battle against a press. If the defense sees indecision or frustration it fuels their pressure. WSU – even its forwards and centers – doesn’t get rattled. Armstead pointed to forward Carl Hall dribbling through the Blue Demons to set up the offense. “Carl Hall was leading us on the break, and he made the right play,” Armstead said. “He thinks he’s a guard. You know how that is.” When the big men take the entry pass, guards are often open in the middle of the floor while on the move, which gives the attacking team a numbers advantage. WSU used that strategy well.
- WSU is 5-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 team started 9-0. The Shockers received 13 votes in this week’s Associated Press poll. I don’t think going 6-0 would be enough to move them into the top 25, but they will have the attention of voters if they can defeat Iowa.
- The Hawkeyes press, which I think is helpful for WSU. They also played zone against Western Kentucky. The Shockers haven’t proven they can make three-pointers with regularity. Somebody is going to call them on that and it may be Iowa tonight.
Next up: vs. Iowa, 8:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)