What bigs shooting three means for WSU
It’s more than just a novelty and more than something for the crowd to cheer for.
Darral Willis, Shaquille Morris, and Rauno Nurger shooting (and making) threes like they did in Friday’s 109-57 rout of Missouri-Kansas City is proof of Wichita State’s offensive evolution.
Wichita State’s offense is shifting toward the three-point shooting craze sweeping the NBA, as it now almost always (with the exception of 7-foot freshman Asbjorn Midtgaard) will have a lineup on the court with five players capable of making a three.
The results can be devastating if Morris, Willis, and Nurger can hit the wide open ones consistently.
“Defenses have to acknowledge that our bigs can stretch the floor this year,” Landry Shamet said.
The value extends beyond the obvious three points.
If Morris, Willis, and Nurger pose at least a threat from the outside, that will take the opposition’s power forwards and centers further away from the paint. It stretches the defense so thin and when WSU’s bigs dot the perimeter, then it leaves the defense without its normal rim protector standing in the lane deterring drives.
“It helps everybody out, the guards and the wings too,” Conner Frankamp said. “It creates angles to drive and to kick and it allows us to finish at the rim.”
WSU will face more resistance than the kind UMKC offered on Friday, but the principles still apply. Defenses are going to be scrambling even more this season because its post players will be pulled one or two steps further away from where they typically would be.
That extra step or two can be invaluable for guards like Shamet, Frankamp, and Samajae Haynes-Jones.
“Now when they hedge and the bigs step up and defend the pick and roll, they can’t stay as long,” Shamet said. “That’s going to set up the guards for more opportunities to get downhill and make more plays. It’s just an added element.”
The challenge for WSU with its new weapon is for Morris, Nurger, and Willis not to get carried away with the three-point shooting. They can be effective in small doses, but Gregg Marshall doesn’t want to see the trio exclusively launching from the outside.
“They’ve worked on that in the summer and they make them in practice,” Marshall said. “That’s skill development. Those guys have really put in the time.
“I’d love to see them roll a little bit more to the basket sometimes, but they love to pick and pop. If they’re open, that’s hard to guard.”
Not just a run
It began as a hot streak to open the game, then lasted the entire half.
Wichita State didn’t use a spurt or a streak in the first half to achieve an elite level of efficiency. It maintained that standard of excellence for the entire 20 minutes.
It took WSU just 15 possessions to establish a 15-point lead. The team’s points per possession hovered over 1.6 for the majority of the first half and the Shockers’ efficient field-goal percentage was over 80 percent for most of the first half too.
Wichita State finished the first half scoring 1.59 points per possession with an effective field-goal percentage of 75.
For reference, UCLA led the country last season in PPP at 1.19 and eFG% at 60 percent.
“I just thought we were really, really good,” Marshall said. “We were getting some great looks.”
Willis led with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Morris chipped in 16 points, while Shamet scored 17 on 5-of-7 shooting. Frankamp added 11 points and nine assists to just one turnover. Haynes-Jones (11 points) and Nurger (11) both finished in double-figures.
It wasn’t one player – the entire Wichita State team was efficient. Meanwhile, the defense held UMKC to under 28 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers.
“Guys were knocking down shots and we were playing good defense,” Frankamp said. “We had high intensity. Everybody came out and played really well for the opening game.”
The start of something special?
Marshall pointed out after the game this team has the same feel as the Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet years. There is superstar talent, but no superstar mentalities.
He loved that eight players scored between eight and 19 points and no one played more than 24 minutes. He loved 26 assists on 39 field goals even more.
“This is a group of guys who are used to playing with each other and they’re unselfish,” Marshall said. “On great teams, there’s no envy or jealousy.”
He then used Van Vleet and Baker as examples.
“Not one time did they complain or ask for more shots,” Marshall said. “That’s just the way we do it here. Winning takes care of everything and those guys won a lot. Now Ron is a multi-millionaire and Fred is on his way. Hopefully that road has been paved and eventually some of these guys can get there.
“This is how you do it. Sharing the ball, when it’s your time knocking down the shot, and winning handily.”
Asked if Marshall had a critique of the first 30 minutes when Wichita State built nearly a 60-point lead, the coach came up empty.
“I’m glad you qualified it like that,” Marshall said, a reference to the final 10 minutes of sloppiness. “But no.”
Shamet looks fully healthy in his return
A story that was hidden among Wichita State’s flurry of points was Shamet’s return to play less than four months after offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
He scored 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including four three-pointers, and finished with two rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes.
“When I hurt my foot, I was thinking I would be out until maybe Maui or whatever,” Shamet said. “But the fact of the matter is I’m back and I’m playing again. It felt good out there.”
Shamet reported no soreness after the game and said he feels like he is 100 percent already.
Marshall noted that Shamet’s absence from practicing may have been a factor in his three turnovers.
“He looked very healthy and he looked like he was in great shape,” Marshall said. “But he’s got to be a little more careful with the basketball.”
Rod Brown will redshirt, Midtgaard will not
The decisions on whether or not to redshirt the pair of freshmen were made by Marshall on Friday night.
Brown, a 6-6 freshman, was not in uniform for Friday’s game and has agreed with the coaching staff to redshirt. Midtgaard played 10 minutes and scored four points and grabbed four rebounds.
“More than likely (Brown) is going to redshirt, unless crazy things happen,” Marshall said. “Hopefully we can redshirt him. That’s what he wanted to do. He could use it, certainly.
“It’s already hard to find time for as many guys as we have right now. And we still have some pretty good players over there in street clothes.”
Sophomore guard CJ Keyser sat out, as he did during the two exhibition games, while the school says he works to resolve a personal issue. Junior Markis McDuffie got the cast off this week and his return from a stress fracture in his foot is still set for mid-to-late December.