Back in mid-December, Wichita State freshman Ron Baker suffered a stress fracture in his foot and was forced to miss 21 games this season. Baker returned on Mar. 8 and scored 15 points against Missouri State and has since become more accumulated with his playing time.
The Shockers were preparing Baker for more minutes in the NCAA Tournament and that’s exactly what the freshman has got. The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 31 minutes in the Shockers’ back-to-back victories, but in Wichita State’s second round victory over Pittsburgh, Baker was quiet. He was 0-for-5 shooting the basketball, finishing with just six points.
In the third round against Gonzaga however, Baker shined. The freshman scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting and this came in a game that the Shockers upset the number one seed in the West Region by six points. Baker was more than key, that’s the bottom line.
Now, Wichita State is preparing for No. 13 LaSalle with the winner having the opportunity to play for a trip to the Final Four. So what will Baker have for an encore performance tonight?
The focus for the Explorers will obviously circulate around Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, but there should be no doubt as to what Baker wants to do. Baker wants to shoot and shoot from the outside. LaSalle needs to be ready to defend the perimeter jump shot because if not, Wichita State will surely get a big boost in this one.
Baker was an x-factor in the Shockers’ win over Gonzaga and very well could be one again on Thursday night.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS