Score: WSU 86, Tulsa 60
Key statistics: The Shockers racked up several season-best markers on offense: 86 points, 52.2 percent shooting, 36.8 percent from three-point range, 23 assists and a season-low eight turnovers.
How the game turned: WSU closed the first half on a 12-4 run, capped by Fred VanVleet’s three, to go up 38-27. Tulsa didn’t get closer than 10 points in the second half.
Records: Tulsa 4-3, WSU 7-0
- Preseason injuries are tough, perhaps debilitating. Former Shocker James Anacreon fell behind last year, missing time for injury and personal reasons, and never made up for it. He is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds for NCAA Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State. Freshman guard Fred VanVleet and junior forward Chadrack Lufile missed practices this fall due to injury and it took them awhile to recover. Based on Wednesday, both are ready to contribute in significant ways. VanVleet’s line jumps off the box score – nine points, five assists, one turnover, four steals in 17 minutes. Lufile scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes. “He’s getting healthy,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said of VanVleet. “He showed that little burst to get by people.” An ankle injury slowed VanVleet earlier this season. He said his foot and mind are healed. “It’s just a different ballgame on a bad wheel,” he said. “Confidence is a big part of my game, so knowing I’m at full speed and full health helps a lot. The first couple games, watching those films, made me cry as slow as I was moving around.” Lufile separated his shoulder and tweaked a knee, setting him back. “I’m being more aggressive, boxing out in the paint,” he said. “I’m really fast, so I took advantage of me running the floor. I just need to work on my offensive game a little bit, but I know it’s going to come. I feel like I’m 100 percent now.”
- VanVleet – 5 assists, 1 turnover. Ron Baker – 5 assists, 1 turnover. Evan Wessel – 4 assists, no turnovers. After facing VCU, passing and dribbling against teams such as Tulsa must seem easy.
- VanVleet has always shown a good understanding of WSU’s offense and how to play the game. He showed his composure on WSU’s final possession of the first half, much to Marshall’s delight. “They executed a zone clock-play beautifully,” Marshall said. “One option was actually taken away from them, and they didn’t panic. We didn’t call a timeout to have to reset. He’s wise beyond his years.”
- I wouldn’t put too much stock in stats until after 10 games, but WSU’s steal totals are worth mentioning. It averages 8.9 a game, two-plus better than last season. Several Shockers are excellent at snatching the ball when an opponent turns his head or is the least bit casual. Opposing post players, especially, are at risk dribbling and looking for the basket. Malcolm Armstead, Demetric Williams, VanVleet and Baker will grab any ball that isn’t secured by a dribbler.
- WSU’s three-point shooting bumped up in the past two games, where it made 7 of 20 against Iowa and 7 of 19 against Tulsa. WSU is shooting 29.3 percent for the season. We’ll check back after three more games. If it isn’t up after one-third of the schedule, I would raise the alert level. For now, I think the Shockers will continue to sort out better shots and better shooters and raise their accuracy. We know Marshall won’t put up red lights for players he thinks can shoot it.
- I liked Tulsa’s freshmen. There appears to be some talent on that roster. With WSU locked into three more games with the Golden Hurricane, it benefits everyone if they can improve.
- Mixed night for the MVC. Creighton’s loss to Boise State is a blow. However, Southern Illinois (which defeated Fresno State on Wednesday) is 4-1. Bradley (which won at Central Michigan) is 5-1. I figured both those teams as big losers and RPI drags. It’s a big help if they can continue to be competitive.
- WSU will join Texas, DePaul and BYU next November in the Sprint Center for the CBE Classic. Texas and BYU are good opponents. DePaul is not. WSU hasn’t committed to a 2014 tournament. I keep expecting WSU to head to the Charleston Classic soon. It is an ESPN tournament and would get Marshall back to South Carolina.