Score: WSU 74, ISU 62
Key stats: WSU made 8 of 18 threes and held the Redbirds to 32.8-percent shooting, a season-low for ISU and WSU’s best defensive effort since Iowa (26.1 percent).
How the game turned: Not sure. Perhaps when Illinois State’s Tyler Brown entered a post-Christmas funk that included a one-game suspension, 25-percent shooting from three-point range and a six-point drop in his scoring average. On Wednesday, WSU outscored the Redbirds 7-2 to end the first half and, despite several swings, the game never seemed in doubt.
Records: WSU 16-2, 5-1 MVC; ISU 9-9, 0-6
- Shockers coach Gregg Marshall feels a lot better about his depth with 10 players instead of nine. It helps when No. 10 is a healthy Carl Hall, working his way back from a broken thumb. All four players who came off the bench contributed in a big way: Hall (10 rebounds), Nick Wiggins (10 points), Jake White (11 points, 5 rebounds), Fred VanVleet (6 assists, 1 turnover). “(Hall) really makes that bench have a little more oomph to it,” Marshall said. “Nick gave us a big lift in the first half; Jake and Fred in the second.”
- White is remaking himself from an outside shooting forward to a player who excels moving without the ball and scoring in the lane. He took 10 threes in WSU’s first three MVC games. In the next three, he took two. Wise choice, considering he is 2 for 21. In those three games, White is 10 of 15 from the field with 21 points and 18 rebounds. His 11 points against Illinois State are a career high, topping the 10 he scored against SIU a week earlier.
- Last season, the potential of playing Garrett Stutz and Ehimen Orukpe together fascinated fans. In practice, it didn’t make sense. Playing Cleanthony Early with Orukpe and Hall makes more sense, but I don’t think it will happen often. There aren’t a lot of big lineups in the MVC where Early is a good matchup guarding shorter players, when the other options are players such as Tekele Cotton or Demetric Williams. Marshall said WSU will take it slow teaching Early a new position. “It’s not as easy as just saying ‘Let’s put Cleanthony Early at the three,’” Marshall said. “He’s been learning the four all year long. He’s a first-year guy. Everything we do, the three has to be one place and do one place and do one thing and the four has to be somewhere else.”
- What to make of WSU’s turnovers? If the Shockers turn it over on five straight possessions against Creighton, they will lose Saturday. Illinois State scored four points off those turnovers. Creighton will not waste the opportunity. Turnovers have not been a big problem this season for the Shockers, who didn’t commit more than 14 in their first four MVC games. But 22 against Evansville and 16 on Wednesday put the topic in the spotlight. Hall committed three, a number that should drop as he gets more playing time. He had three turnovers once in his first 10 games.
Next up: vs. Creighton, 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)