Key statistics: The Shockers forced 10 second-half turnovers and scored 16 points off those turnovers. After allowing the Tribe to shoot 51.7 percent in the first half, WSU lowered that number to 42.1 percent in the second half.
How the game turned: WSU center Kadeem Coleby scored six of WSU’s nine points during a 9-4 run that started the second half and gave the Shockers the lead for the first time.
- WSU guard Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 18 points, one game after he matched the previous high with 17. He is continuing the recent tradition of scoring point guards that includes Clevin Hannah, Joe Ragland and Malcolm Armstead, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly. He is averaging 15 points a game, just behind Cleanthony Early (15.3). VanVleet worked hard on his jump shot before coming to WSU, wanting to prove that knock on his game incorrect. He shot well from three-point range (40.8 percent) last season, but only 38.6 percent overall. This season, he is 63.2 percent overall (12-19) and is 3 for 4 from three. He shoots a lot of layups, in part because of new rules that help drivers cruise to the basket untouched. He thinks defenses are geared to stop others, giving him freedom. “I’m not the first guy that you’re trying to take away,” he said. “It would probably go Cle, Ron and Kadeem. A lot of teams aren’t even helping off of those guys. That’s the benefit of having some great players on my side.” VanVleet’s ability to get to the rim is fueling the offense. He is 18 of 23 from the line (after shooting 40 last season) and leads the team in free throws made and attempted. “When he’s aggressive, it really, really helps our team,” Nick Wiggins said. “It opens up shots. Teams don’t look at him as the first or second option, so that opens up the floor really well.”
- Eight turnovers for the Shockers, which continues an encouraging trend. WSU is averaging 9.3 a game.
- Post play will get a lot of scrutiny until the minutes shake out. Coleby seems to offer the best combo of reliable scoring (55 percent on a lot of dunks) and defense (five blocks). Chadrack Lufile is close, displaying a little more skill on offense each time. Darius Carter is struggling on offense (2 of 10) and appears to be moving too fast. That’s not unusual for a transfer and I would expect him to slow down and use the offense to help him as the season progresses. He could help himself by catching the ball a few feet closer to the hoop, or passing out of the post and posting up again to get better position.
- Wiggins is also taking advantage of the new rules to get the basket. “I’m starting to see them play me more to shoot the ball,” he said. “When I come off screens, they’re trying to keep me off the three-point line. I see a lot of driving lanes opening up.”
- William & Mary played well in the first half and WSU coach Gregg Marshall described it well, saying it was just “playing basketball.” That game provided a better test than some expected and credit goes to the Tribe. They are an experienced team with some skilled players and entertaining to watch. They took it to WSU in the first half and pushed the Shockers.
Next up: vs. Tennessee State, noon Saturday