Wichita State was flat. They weren’t being aggressive on offense or moving the ball well. They simply did not look like the 16th-best team in the nation against a gritty Western Kentucky team to start.
In a game that started full of emotion as the university unveiled the Final Four banner from a year ago, Gregg Marshall’s team did not come out as he would have liked. They struggled offensively, only scoring 30 points and shooting 11-of-33 from the field along with eight turnovers.
Their two best players, Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker, who were both breakout players in last year’s NCAA tournament run, were not looking to get going offensively. Baker had no points and only attempted one shot. The Shockers were solid defensively, but could not take advantage of Western Kentucky starting point guard Brandon Price, a walk-on freshman who had a hand in a few of Western Kentucky’s 10 first half turnovers.
They did not look like a Gregg Marshall coached team, but that all changed in the second half.
The aggressiveness of Wichita State in the second half is what won them this game by a 66-49 score and showed that this team is legit. Besides being aggressive, they played their game. They were tough on defense and made Western Kentucky earn every point. They played unselfish basketball and found open teammates for easy buckets.
Last season, Wichita State may have not been one of the four most talented teams in the nation, but they made the Final Four because of playing unselfish, team-oriented hard-nosed basketball. They showed in the second half how good they can be again when they play their game.
To start the second half, they went on a quick 9-0 run that forced Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper to call timeout and regroup his ball club. Western Kentucky was unable to do so as Wichita State continued forcing turnovers and scoring in a variety of ways.
Marshall must have really gotten into his team during halftime, because they looked entirely different for the last 20 minutes. The Shockers came out and attacked the basket immediately. This created open jump shots and a few dunks that seemed to ignite the team and the fans. On defense, they continued to make Western Kentucky look uncomfortable with their on-ball defense as well as their superb help defense.
Their team defense was very impressive as they held Western Kentucky to only 21 points in the second half. When you play defense like, that you will have a chance to win in every game.
Playing with energy and being aggressive makes such a difference, and it was obvious in this matchup. The game becomes easier and things start to go your way. That is what happened to Wichita State. In order to be a legit contender, you have to be aggressive and play your game each and every night.
It is the first game of the season and the first half was not all that impressive, but the second half showed that no one should be shocked that the Shockers will be tough to beat when they play their game.