- During quiet moments, you can often hear Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall yelling at his team to pass the ball inside. You can hear the crowd groan when a guard misses a chance to pass to an open post player. It seems so easy from the sidelines. It’s not so easy on the court. “In everybody’s mind, they’re thinking about not turning the ball over,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “When you’re making a decision, and you’re trying to be safe with the ball, you’re not going to take some of the chances that might look appealing.” Even without leading scorer Carl Hall, the Shockers need to get the ball inside. Ehimen Orukpe and Chadrack Lufile won’t score as much as Hall did. Good things can happen, even when they don’t score. The big men can draw fouls and they can make the defense move to open shooters. “We’re definitely taking responsibility for it, and hopefully, we can do a better job,” VanVleet said. “It’s mostly on the guards, but there are things the posts can do to help us. Even without passing it in, guards can dribble drive.” This is an area where the Shockers miss Ron Baker and Evan Wessel more than many might realize. They are good passers who recorded more assists than turnovers before injuries benched them. That is unusual for two inexperienced players. Baker uses pass-fakes (and shot-fakes) better than most. He listens when coaches tell him to “fake a pass, make a pass.” Wessel committed five turnovers in eight starts. Both are tall for wings, able to pass over defenders, and both have a good understanding of the offense. Without Hall, WSU’s inside game won’t be as dangerous. The Shockers still need to work the ball inside and let Orukpe, Lufile and Cleanthony Early work on the defense.
Northern Iowa (7-5): The Panthers are shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range, with Sonnen at 43.7 percent (31 of 71). F Nate Buss averages 6.4 points off the bench, making 9 of 16 threes. G Matt Bohannon has made 19 shots this season, 15 from behind the arc. He is 15 of 39 from three.… Mitchell has scored 18 or more points four times, including a career-high 27 in an overtime win over Toledo.… Opponents out-rebounded the Panthers in the past four games and six of the past seven.… UNI is the MVC’s best free throwing shooting team (75.5 percent).
Wichita State (11-1): WSU leads the MVC by holding opponents to 58.5 points and 38.4 percent shooting. It also leads in rebound margin (plus-8.6).… F Nick Wiggins scored 12 points in a 59-51 win over Southern Mississippi. He is 8 of 13 from three-point range in the past four games.… WSU committed 15 or more turnovers in its past five games, twice committing 19.… The Shockers swept the season series in 2011-12 and has won three straight against UNI.… WSU is 11-1 for the fifth time since 1945.