No. 15 Wichita State (13-2) won’t go undefeated again this season, but the Shockers have remained among the nation’s elite – even if they didn’t play like it for 40 minutes against Bradley on Wednesday.
Wichita State trailed Bradley, 28-27, at halftime but used a 36-15 run in the second half to win, 63-43.
Why did the Shockers start so slow?
“We couldn’t hit water from a boat in the middle of the ocean,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said on Tiki and Tierney. “We tried in the first half. We weren’t playing well. We were kind of running in place. It was a Wednesday night, lot of games played, it was an unusual crew. And midway through the second half, there were two bad calls in a row – one (of) which put my preseason first-team All-American Fred VanVleet on the bench with a third foul, and then there was a phantom illegal screen call. I kind of got upset with that one.”
Marshall thought for sure he would get a technical foul for his outburst, but the whistle never came.
“I haven’t gotten a technical in about three or four years, so I was ready to wear one at that point,” he said, “but they never gave it to me. I figured they realized that they missed a couple, so they gave me a little more rope than normal. Our guys pulled it together (and) ended up wining by 20, out-rebounding them by 13 after being tied (on) the glass at halftime. We had a really good second half. Maybe that emotional spark was something that helped them.”
Or maybe it was the therapy session Marshall held at halftime. Instead of going right into the locker room at the break, Marshall lingered outside.
“I kind of eavesdropped on the fellows at halftime because I just didn’t think they were playing with a lot of emotion,” Marshall explained. “It really seemed odd how our guys were functioning in the first half. So instead of meeting with the coaches, I kind of stood outside the locker room to see the pulse of that team and to hear what they were saying. It was really quiet. That told me all I needed to know. Fred VanVleet was the only guy who said a few words, so I went in there at halftime, (and) I said, ‘Okay, I’m not going to rant and rave. I’m just going to let you guys talk. You guys tell me what’s going on.’ That seemed to work.”
Players took turns sharing what they felt had happened – and what they felt needed to happen – for the Shockers to turn things around.
“In the end, it was up to them,” Marshall said. “Other than the little mini-tantrum on the sideline, that’s all I can do. They’re the ones out there running the court, hitting the glass and making the shots and defending on each trip, so it worked out.”
Overall, Marshall is very pleased with how his team has played this year, especially after losing four pivotal seniors from last season, including Cleantony Early, who plays for the Knicks. The Shockers have lost twice this season: on the road in overtime by a point against then-No. 25 Utah on Dec. 3, and 60-54 against George Washington on Christmas.
They’ve also beaten Memphis, Seton Hall, Saint Louis and Alabama.
“I think we’re about where we need to be,” Marshall said. “If you had told me (we’d be) 10-2 (through the) non-conference portion of our schedule, I would have said ‘Absolutely, I’ll take it.’”
While Marshall has high hopes for this season, he’s also salivating over next season, as he has three Top 100 recruits in his incoming recruiting class.
“We don’t usually get Top 100 recruits,” he said, “but we have three coming next year . . . and expectations are a little out of whack right now for us. Still, we’re top 15 in the country, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.”