Key statistics: The Salukis missed 10 of 24 fouls shots, or else things might have played out much differently. WSU made 6 of 13 threes in the second half. While SIU only committed 13 turnovers, they led to 23 Shocker points.
How the game turned: WSU scored on its final six possessions to turn a 64-61 lead into a 78-67 win. The key sequence started with Nick Wiggins’ three to make it 67-61. WSU’s Tekele Cotton pressured Anthony Beane into a missed jumper, denying SIU the kind of response that kept the game close. Cotton made two free throws on the next possession for a 69-61 lead with 2:55 to play.
Records: WSU 26-0, 13-0 MVC; SIU 10-16, 6-7
- It is becoming more common to see opponents winning 50-50 balls from the Shockers in recent games. SIU, a solid rebounding team despite its lack of size, out-hustled the Shockers at several times and kept the rebounding stat close before losing 32-29. On Saturday, the Shockers dominated Northern Iowa on the boards after a close first half. Indiana State out-rebounded WSU 41-35 and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to WSU’s four. The Shockers are talented enough to win with equality on the boards, but that’s not how the program got to this point. “They’re playing really hard and they really want to win,” WSU forward Cleanthony Early said. “They’re rebounding and they’re playing tough. We get kind of get smacked in the face by that. We stay strong and try to punch them back.”
- WSU guard Ron Baker missed three three-pointers and committed four turnovers in 14 minutes in the first half. He finished with 19 points, making 3 of 8 threes, and five turnovers. “He’s going at least one dribble too far, at times,” Marshall said. “He’s trying to make a spectacular play or a spectacular pass and he’s open coming off the ball screen. Shoot the basketball. That’s what you do. You’re not Magic Johnson – yet. Just shoot the ball.” Baker needed to be a little more decisive in those situations and shoot open shots, he said. “I was making too many extra passes off the dribble,” he said. “Coach gets on me like that and people think he’s barking at me. He’s just coaching.”
- WSU’s turnover rate is rising. While the Shockers aren’t making a ton of mistakes, it’s noticeable that they’re not quite as tight with the ball as a month ago. WSU went 11 games with no more than 12 turnovers, eight of them under 10. WSU had 13 on Tuesday, its seventh straight with 10 or more. “Just being a little more careless,” Baker said. “Our decision-making has been a little different as of late. Being passive at times, maybe turning down a good shot. Sometimes, we’re not executing our breakdown or our clock play the best we can, putting ourselves in the best position to score.”
- SIU is a much-improved team, as its recent record shows. WSU stopped a four-game win streak that vaulted SIU out of the bottom of the Valley. “We don’t want to play on Thursday night (in the MVC Tournament,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “We’re tired of that. We’re tired of being everybody’s homecoming game.” The Shockers faced a team that bore little resemblance to the one it faced on Jan. 2 at SIU Arena in an 82-67 win. Hinson took the blame for that, even writing on the board before Tuesday’s game that it was his fault. Over Christmas, he took time off after the death of his son-in-law. “I came back too early,” he said. “It was such a downer. I had no energy. I completely sucked every bit of life out of our guys that first game.”
- With Anthony Beane, who scored no points in the first meeting, Desmar Jackson and Jalen Pendleton, SIU looks like a team nobody will want to face in St. Louis. Those three guards can control a game and SIU’s zone defense forces a team to make outside shots. Hinson has done a nice job making this team competitive after a 1-4 MVC start and it won’t be a surprise if SIU finishes strong. Beane, a sophomore, scored 25 on Tuesday and is on his way to Valley stardom.
- Hinson did not disappoint reporters looking for a passionate defense of WSU as a No. 1 seed and the MVC. He entertained in the hallway outside the media room, yelling “Good gracious – that’s one of the top two teams in the country. I’m fired up for the Shockers. I’m fired up for Wichita State. I’m fired up for our conference. It is just a burr underneath my saddle when people talk like that.”
- WSU’s Nick Wiggins made 2 of 4 threes to continue his improved accuracy. In his past six games, Wiggins is 9 of 16 from three-point range. His foul shooting, however, continues to be an issue. He shot 73 percent from the line last season. This season, he is at 53.7 percent after going 4 for 8 against SIU.
- For No. 26, Marshall chose “marathon” as his device to focus the players on each game, a fitting choice for the grind of February. Research revealed that the 1908 Olympic marathon ran 26 miles, followed by a lap of 385 yards. “The queen and king in London in 1908 wanted the race to end in front of their box, so they had to add the 385 yards,” he said.
- WSU is the first team to go 26-0 since Memphis in 2007-08.
- Marshall is in Bristol, Conn., today to do a round of ESPN interviews (apparently known as a carwash in ESPN jargon). His schedule, according to WSU and ESPN:
- 3:35pm – ESPN.com Chat
- 3:45pm – PTI
- 4:15pm – 4p SportsCenter
- 4:30pm – ESPN the Magazine interview
- 5 pm – CBB Wrap around, ESPNU
- 5:15pm - The Freddie Coleman Show
- 5:40pm – 5p SportsCenter
- 6:30pm – CBB Wraps, Syracuse vs. Pitt Halftime Show
- 7:30pm – 7p SportsCenter
Next up: at Evansville, 4 p.m. Sunday (Fox Sports Kansas City)