Key statistics: Wichita State committed two turnovers and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. The Redbirds made one three-pointer (late in the first half) and missed 24.
How the game turned: Cleanthony Early’s baseline dunk gave WSU 32-29 early in the second half and signaled that the Shockers figured out how to handle Illinois State’s defense. The Shockers passed the ball crisply and made shots, taking the crowd out of the game. They led 43-33 with 13:36 to play on two foul shots by Ron Baker and the lead slipped below 10 points for a mere 10 seconds the rest of the game.
Records: WSU 20-0, 7-0 MVC; ISU 11-8, 4-3
- WSU has 20 wins for a fifth consecutive season. Previously, WSU had two streaks of three 20-win seasons (1981-83 and 2004-06).
- Love schools that still do shot charts. WSU does. So does Illinois State. The Shockers made 11 threes, six from the corners. Illinois State’s 2-3 zone defense gave up those shots and WSU took advantage. “The way we run our ball-screen offense we want to overload the side and get them outnumbered,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “Put that low guy in the zone and option him off and make him make a decision whether to come guard the ball, take the post or give up the three.”
- The other revealing info from the shot chart: WSU made five layups and two more shots in the lane in the second half. First half, it made two layups and attempted two shots in the lane, missing both.
- WSU’s offense began to work more smoothly when the Shockers put Baker in the middle of the court and moved Early to the wing. That put a good passer in the middle and allowed Early to use his height to shoot over smaller players. “I told them since we got in here (Redbird Arena) I was feeling my shot,” Early said. “It was cool that we did the invert . . . where me and Ron switch positions. He’s playing the four and I’m playing the three.” Early shooting over smaller players echoed last season’s 68-67 win. The Shockers used Illinois State’s switching man-to-man defense to get Early a game-winning three in the final seconds over a smaller defender. “He can see over it and any time he catches it with good ball movement, he’s pretty open,” Marshall said. “Ron does a better job there in the high post making some good passes and plays.” Baker passed out of the high post to Tekele Cotton for his second-half dunk.
- If you walked into WSU’s locker room after the game, you saw Shockers Zach Bush, Ria’n Holland, John Robert Simon and others glued to their smart phones watching Cotton’s dunk. It’s hard for a team to keep heated emotion going. The Redbirds rode that wave for the first half. It grew harder to keep that spirit on defense up in the second half, especially when shots refused to drop. “We played a really good first half and competed as hard as we could and came out in the second half and did not play with the same intensity,” Redbirds coach Dan Muller said. “They did and picked it up like a really good team does.”
- Illinois State missed six threes in the first half before Zach Lofton made one with 5:30 to play. Then it missed four more before halftime. It missed all 14 threes in the second half, which is hard to do, regardless of the defense. “I thought we got a lot of good shots,” Muller said. “We missed some open ones. They’re just so long when you get those open ones they’re a little tougher to make. I felt we were getting solid shots with a few forced ones.”
- The Redbirds don’t have a senior. They have two players sitting out (former WSU signee Teddy Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh) this season. They need scorers and they need more experience. Muller appears to be recruiting the type of athletes needed to compete at the top of the MVC. He took a team with a tremendous amount of turnover from last season and has it in the upper half of the MVC. I did not think that was possible. If you want to be optimistic about the future of the MVC, young players such as Reggie Lynch are a good place to start.
- WSU’s 20-0 start moves it alone in second for best MVC season-opening records. Indiana State went 33-0 in 1978-79. WSU’s 20-game win streak ranks fifth in MVC history. Drake won 21 straight in 2007-08. Cincinnati holds the record with 37 over two seasons (1961-63).
- WSU is the 11th team to start 20-0 since 2003-04. Murray State (23-0) and Syracuse (20-0) both did it in 2011-12.
Next up: at Drake, 7:05 p.m., Saturday (Cox 22)