Ahead of Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game against UE at Koch Arena, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall talked on this week’s Missouri Valley teleconference about playing the Aces and more.
The Shockers (24-5, 12-4 MVC) can clinch a share of the league’s regular-season championship with a win. The last time UE and Wichita State met, the Aces won 71-67 on Jan. 13 at the Ford Center.
On facing UE: “Evansville can run their motion offense as well as anyone. Get Colt Ryan some shots and get him to the line. They’re going to defend you tough. They battle you as hard an anybody in the country inch for inch and pound for pound. They beat us the first time. It’s a big game.”
Marshall said his team won’t be short on motivation this time around: “You tell them the facts. Tell them we need one more win to share a conference championship. Show them the end of the Evansville game at Evansville. Senior night — there’s a lot I could show them or talk to them about. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem at this stage.”
Wichita State senior Carl Hall (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) missed the teams’ first meeting while recovering from a thumb injury. “I hope he can get a couple baskets inside” this time, Marshall said. “We were struggling to do that when we played them there. They’ve got the big kid (Egidijus Mockevicius) inside now and (Jaylon) Moore and (Ryan) Sawvell. They’ve got a little size. They probably had as much size as we did at that point. Carl gives us that low post threat around the basket that we didn’t have.”
Wichita State went through a three-game losing streak from Jan. 29-Feb. 5. The Shockers, who were at one time missing three starters due to injury, have since won five in a row. “I’m actually kind of amazed,” Marshall said. “I really am. I didn’t know how quickly we could pull this together this season with all the newcomers…Even though there’s been some sleepless nights and a lot of gut-wrenching times for the coaching staff, the young men — the players — have not seemed that affected by it. That’s a testament to their resiliency, their toughness and their resolve.”
Marshall said his staff won’t prepare for UE any differently knowing Aces senior Ned Cox could be limited by a left food injury. “I really like Ned as a player,” the coach said. “I think he had 20-something against us as a freshman here. Loved his game. I think they’ve got other guys who come off the bench — (D.J.) Balentine in particular — had 18 points the other night. They’re like us. They’re not a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination. Ned is a good one. You know, it happens. I can fill you in on all the injuries we’ve had all season long. That would probably take all of your time.”
Marshall also shared his opinion on non-conference strength of schedule which would be the tiebreaker between Creighton and Wichita should the Bluejays win their game Saturday and the teams finish with the same record. “I really don’t know how that works, to be honest,” he said. “I always thought their strength of schedule was probably a little better than ours when you look at who they’ve played — California, Akron, Wisconsin and those folks. I didn’t understand how we were ahead of them to begin with, but we were. And I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I do understand division and multiplication. It seems like when you play one (BracketBusters) game and your strength of schedule jumps 60-some-odd places, that’s incredible. Basically the way I would see it working — and this is obviously not how it works — is you would divide the RPI strength of the other 12 teams you play and get a number. And that’s why I thought theirs should have been ahead of us, but it wasn’t. Then all of a sudden you have a 13th team, and the matrix goes haywire. But it doesn’t matter.”
Wichita State’s non-conference strength of schedule was 66th and Creighton’s 109th heading into the weekend. Despite losing to Saint Mary’s, the Bluejays moved to 47th and the Shockers to 73rd.