Score: Wichita State 66, UNI 41
Records: WSU 12-1, 1-0 MVC; UNI 7-6, 0-1
Key statistics: WSU held the Panthers to 32.6-percent shooting (3 of 17 from three) and out-rebounded them 40-22.
How the game turned: The Shockers pushed the lead to 20 with a 9-1 run in the first four minutes of the second half. Malcolm Armstead supplied two big plays, a three-pointer and a steal that led to a Demetric Williams layup.
- Even bad teams make a run. Even great teams fade for a few minutes. Anybody who’s seen UNI over the years knows the Panthers are well-coached and play hard. To see them go so quietly in the second half is one of more surprising segments I’ve watched at Koch Arena. The Panthers, with three senior starters and plenty of experience behind them, acted overwhelmed by the crowd and the Shockers and looked as if they wanted to be anywhere else. I’m sure coach Ben Jacobson would agree, which is why he sat his starters for about a seven-minute period in the second half, after they gave up a 12-5 run that helped settle the matter.
- The good news for the Shockers is that they didn’t let the Panthers get rolling out of the locker room in the second half. It’s hard to play 40 minutes of good basketball and WSU came pretty close Sunday. It’s easy to give up a run after the break. The leading team is feeling good and thinking about the post-game meal. Meanwhile, the trailing team’s coach is ripping his guys in the locker room. They can come out and play from behind and they’re probably due for a few breaks. WSU didn’t allow any of that to happen, which seems especially important for a team with so many players new to life in the MVC. “It shows how tough and how hungry we are,” WSU senior Demetric Williams said.
- Sunday’s win came so easy I wonder if the WSU coaches will need to explain to their newcomers MVC play won’t always be this easy. They got an uncharacteristic intro to Valley play. I suspect UNI won’t play that poorly often this season.
- WSU coach Gregg Marshall often credits the assistant who prepared the scouting report. On Sunday, it was Chris Jans. UNI runs a ton of plays and it’s impossible to plan for them all. But the Shockers did a great job covering the outside shooters and UNI doesn’t possess much of an inside game under the best of circumstances. With Ehimen Orukpe guarding the goal, it’s even tougher. “Coach Jans did a wonderful scout,” Marshall said. “He had our guys really mentally prepared for what they were going to see. We limited them to one shot. You can’t even go over all of their set plays. For three days we worked on some of their favorite concepts and ideas.”
- WSU is going to need to win games scoring in the 60s during its injury problems. It can do that for many reasons, chief among them: Cleanthony Early will get loose for one or two bursts of scoring to build a lead and Orukpe (and other shot-blockers) will keep teams from high-percentage shots.
- Early annoyed Marshall late in the first half, when he took his time getting back on defense after a no-call on his drive to the basket. “When he didn’t get the call, he stayed down on the ground,” Marshall said. “These are big-time referees that worked this game. This is a Final Four crew. Everyone of those guys has worked a Final Four. He was in junior college last year. I reminded him of that when he walked over.”
- WSU has won 15 in a row at Koch Arena (16 in Wichita, counting a win at Intrust Bank Arena). It is the longest Koch Arena (or Levitt) win streak since the Shockers won 20 straight from 1987 to 1989. That streak began after an overtime loss to Purdue and ended with an overtime loss to Creighton. WSU’s record is 22 at home, set from 1982 to 1983.
- WSU guard Malcolm Armstead reached double figures (14 points) for the first time since the Northern Colorado game. His five assists were his most since playing Iowa. He also had three steals. Four turnovers is too many, but Armstead gave WSU’s offense a lot of life with his driving and passing. UNI defenders couldn’t keep him out of the lane.
- Paul Miller and Sara Lungren are the latest entrants into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame. Both are easy picks. WSU has three MVC Players of the Year – Carr, McDaniel, Miller. Bob Elmore’s absence continues to be an issue. It is also getting more and more noticeable that Jason Perez is not included. Elmore’s off-court issues (he died of a drug overdose) at least cloud that issue, although I would agree with Bob Lutz that it is time to forget and move on. I can’t think of any reason to keep Perez out. He is WSU’s No. 6 career scorer, No. 1 in steals and No. 13 in assists. If you stuck with the Shockers during the 1990s, Perez was likely the reason.
- The Shockers travel to Des Moines on Wednesday to play Drake. It is rarely easy to win there, as WSU’s last two MVC champions can attest. In 2006, WSU needed Paul Miller’s tip in the final seconds to survive 60-58 to clinch a share of the title. Last season, Drake won 93-86 in three overtimes. The Bulldogs (6-6, 0-1 MVC) rank last in the MVC in scoring defense (71.7 points) and make 41 percent of their threes, second in the MVC.
Next up: At Drake, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday (Cox 22)