The score: WSU 65, Charleston Southern 53
Key statistics: The Shockers held CSU to 6-of-24 shooting and out-rebounded the Bucs 29-9 in the second half.
How the game turned: WSU’s Cleanthony Early went on an 8-0 run to start the second half while the Shockers held the Bucs scoreless for almost five minutes. The Shockers went up 35-28 and led the rest of the way.
- WSU coach Gregg Marshall is challenging Shocker fans. He asked for noise earlier in the week to help his short-handed team. He appeared less than overwhelmed with Thursday’s response. WSU announced the crowd at 10,112. Marshall noticed many empty seats. “We had some people in the stands,” he said. “We had 10,000-plus. It was OK.” Later, he brought the conversation back to the crowd for Saturday’s game at Intrust Bank Arena against Southern Mississippi. “I hope we have a nice crowd on Saturday,” he said. “The people that go to Intrust, in my opinion, because they pay the money and it’s not part of the season-ticket package, they really want to be there. They’re loud and they’re up. That’s what this team needs right now. They need energy. We need the best crowd of the year on Saturday.”
- As of Friday morning, WSU had sold 8,200 tickets for Saturday. A crowd of 10,000-plus seems reasonable. That will disappoint some. I think the list of schools that could sell 10,000 tickets for a standalone game off campus against a Conference-USA opponent is small. Kansas in Kansas City can do it. Kentucky in Louisville (or almost anywhere). Indiana in Indianapolis. Michigan State in Detroit. Duke or North Carolina in Greensboro. Kansas State did it last season in Wichita against West Virginia. That’s an elite list of schools. On the other hand – Oregon-Duke drew 12,914 in Portland (2010). Texas-UCLA drew 2,797 in Houston (2012). Kansas State-IUPUI drew 7,053 in Kansas City (2009). Arkansas drew 12,691 against Houston (2011) and 9,396 against UAB (2010) in Little Rock. It’s not a perfect comparison, but I don’t think many athletic directors wake up each day confident they can sell around 10,000 tickets in a one-game situation like WSU can.
- WSU committed a mere 13 fouls, third-lowest total this season. CSU helped because it likes to shoot jumpers and didn’t do a lot of driving or post offense. With nine healthy players, WSU has to avoid foul trouble. At shootaround, Marshall talked about avoiding fouls far from the basket. “You have to play smart defense,” guard Demetric Williams said. “Don’t be doing unnecessary fouls in the backcourt. Just cut out on those.”
- Nick Wiggins gave WSU a lift with his scoring (11 points, including an impressive one-handed dunk in the first half). He let two loose balls get away from him, and both times it earned him a spot on the bench. “Nick scored it when he was in,” Marshall said. “He’s got to keep working on his defense and rebounding and coming up with loose balls.”
- Marshall liked his team’s pressure defense, especially in the second half. WSU forced 16 turnovers and had 11 steals (third-most this season). It scored 21 points off those turnover. The Shockers, without leading scorer Carl Hall, Evan Wessel and Ron Baker, will need to create easy baskets more than ever. Their ability to score in the half court is diminished without those players.
- Southern Miss is 8-3 and coming off wins over Grambling State and Georgia State. Its best wins are over Georgia and Western Kentucky. It losses are to New Mexico State, Arizona and Louisiana Tech, all on the road.
Next up: vs. Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m. Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena