Key statistics: The Shockers held Western to 28.6-percent shooting (18 of 63) with 12 blocked shots and a press that caused key turnovers. WSU made 14 of 26 shots in the second half.
How the game turned: Ron Baker started the second half with his lone three, starting an 11-0 run that essentially put the Toppers away. A turnover turned into a Kadeem Coleby dunk and Tekele Cotton’s steal of a pass turned into another basket by Coleby for a 37-28 lead. Western didn’t score in the second half until the 15:40 mark, trailing 41-28.
Records: WSU 2-0, WKU 0-1
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- The rebounding thing is going to bug WSU coach Gregg Marshall until it gets fixed. Even when the Shockers were a bad team early in his tenure, they rebounded like demons. Western Kentucky out-rebounded WSU 42-40 and, more damaging, grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Since 2010-11, WSU has out-rebounded 80 of its 97 opponents. In that same period, it is 7-7 when getting out-rebounded. “Get their ass on somebody and get them out of there . . . rebound the basketball,” Marshall said when asked about a remedy. “It’s pretty simple.” Coleby hears the message. “Same thing,” he said. “Hit somebody. Hold your checkout. We’ve been working on the technique every day. It’s going to get better.”
- Last game, we noticed that Nick Wiggins got the free throw line, something he rarely did as a junior. This game, it’s Cleanthony Early showing up with a career-high three assists. Early, despite playing the second-most minutes last season, totaled 23 assists in 39 games. You can bet NBA scouts noticed. In two games, he’s got five assists this season. He also has five turnovers.
- WSU blocked 12 shots, tying for third in the program’s history with a 1961 game against Santa Clara and a 1962 game against Louisville. The Shockers, you may remember, blocked 13 last season against Southern Illinois.
- WSU won its 17th straight non-conference game at Koch Arena and its 19th straight in Wichita. Its last non-conference loss at home came to VCU in 2011.
- After a rough start, Coleby looked noticeably more comfortable in the second half. His teammates helped with lob passes for dunks. It’s an adjustment playing in front of that crowd and I would expect players such as Coleby and Darius Carter to get through that period soon and contribute more consistently. “I hope so,” Coleby said. “You don’t really realize until you go to make a move and you’re like ‘Oh, man, I’ve still got some jitters.’” Coleby, Carter and Chadrack Lufile combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds. Lufile played well – six points – in the first half and showed some of the post moves he honed over the summer.
- After Coleby missed the dunk on the game’s first sequence, he told VanVleet to give him another chance. “He was like ‘Man, I’m going to throw one more,’” Coleby said. “I’m ready.”
- Guard Fred VanVleet attributed the first-half offensive struggles to too much individual play. The Shockers settled in later and a switch from their motion offense to their ball-screen offense helped after halftime. “We were getting a lot of open shots, but they were all off one-on-one plays,” he said. “When it comes that easy, it kind of takes you out of your flow. I think in the second half, guys started passing up good shots to get great shots.”
- VanVleet finished with 17 points on a 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, three assists (two turnovers) and four steals in 35 minutes. One of the things that’s enjoyable about watching him is his pace. He rarely gets going too fast and he seems to have a great sense of when to change speeds. He isn’t a blur, but he doesn’t need to be because he controls the speed of the play.
- The Shockers handled a solid team, getting a break because the Hilltoppers played without their starting point guard. I would expect WKU to be a top 75-100 RPI win. It has chances at good wins at Louisville and at home against Mississippi.