No opponent in Gregg Marshall’s 11 years at Wichita State had hung half-a-hundred on the Shockers until South Dakota State did it Tuesday night at Koch Arena.
The sell-out crowd of 10,506 groaned every time one of SDSU’s hot-shooting bigs slipped a screen and fired away from beyond the arc. The Jackrabbits made 20 of 32 shots and 8 of 12 three-pointers in the first half, pumping out 1.47 points per possession.
So how were South Dakota State’s trio of bigs — Mike Daum (6-foot-9), Ian Theisen (6-9), and Reed Tellinghuisen (6-7) — able to get that wide open? And how were the Shockers able to overcome their 12 combined three-pointers to win 95-85, despite allowing the most points to an opponent at Koch Arena since 2003?
Let’s analyze two half-time adjustments made by WSU coach Gregg Marshall that essentially won the game for the No. 6-ranked Shockers (7-1).
1. Changing the coverage of ball screens
Wichita State knew South Dakota State would want to shoot a lot of three-pointers (nearly half of its shots this season have been threes) and it knew the Jackrabbits would depend heavily on ball screens to create those shots.
What makes SDSU’s offense unique is the guards generate three-point shots for the bigs. SDSU torched WSU in the opening 20 minutes when point guard Tevin King received a flat ball screen from either Daum, Theisen, or Tellinghuisen.
WSU could have played this action several different ways. It could have had its posts push up on the screener and have the guards go under all screens; it could have aggressively trapped all screens and scrambled to rotate; or it could have simply switched on every screen.
Instead, the guards chased over every screen and WSU’s big defending the screener fell back to the middle of the floor to prevent the dribbler from penetrating toward the rim. This essentially gave Daum, Theisen, and Tellinghuisen free rein from the three-point line after the screen. Below is three clips showing why WSU’s coverage was troubling.
Daum, Thiesen, and Tellinghuisen shot a combined 8 for 11 in the first half and scored 30 points.
“It was just a bad scheme on our part,” Marshall said. “We didn’t do a very good job. We confused them. We had too many different concepts.”
It was the scheme that SDSU coach TJ Otzelberger carefully drew up against the Shockers, knowing they were a team that liked to hard hedge and were vulnerable to throw-backs to the screener.
“We tried to be intentional about the positions we put our guys in to be successful,” Otzelberger said. “We have a lot of confidence in our guys. The venue or the program isn’t going to matter to these guys, they’re going to rise to the challenge.”
Marshall scrapped the coverage at halftime and instructed his players to switch every ball screen to prevent SDSU’s bigs from popping out after the screen for open three-pointers.
Above is a video of SDSU in its Horns set with Tellinghuisen setting the screen for the ball handler and popping out, except this time Conner Frankamp switches with Landry Shamet and there’s no lapse in coverage.
Players said the communication on defense picked up in the second half, as well.
“In the first half, we weren’t communicating too much like we really needed to do,” senior Shaquille Morris said. “As soon as we started communicating and getting back in our stances, we were able to start contesting their shots.”
Once WSU committed to switching, SDSU’s favorite weapon to generate threes was taken away. That led to more possessions like the clip below, where WSU’s defense forced SDSU out of its comfort zone and made SDSU rely more on dribble penetration — something WSU was prepared to stop.
Daum, Thiesen, and Tellinghuisen shot just 4 of 12 the second half, as SDSU as a team shot 35 percent from beyond the arc.
“I thought coach Marshall did a phenomenal job making adjustments in the second half and it didn’t allow us to execute in the same matter,” Otzelberger said.
Senior wing Zach Brown said the tinkering with the pick-and-pop coverage was important schematically, but it was also important for WSU to remain strong mentally.
“You know coach is going to get on you because that’s just coach, but he’s not out there on the court with us,” Brown said. “We’re the ones out there playing. So you’ve got to dig deep and be tough and have that mental and physical strength to keep going.”
2. Switching to the diamond press
When WSU trailed by 18 points in the second half to California in the opening game of the Maui Invitational, Marshall pulled the diamond press — a 1-2-1-1 full-court trap — out of his bag of tricks to rescue the Shockers.
Just like it did in that game, the diamond press once again revitalized the Shockers and helped them turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit victory. The press helped WSU speed up the tempo to create more possessions (more chances to cut away at the deficit), force SDSU out of its halfcourt sets where it was having success, and generate turnovers.
It also showcased the best traits in this WSU team.
“The resolve, the toughness, the refuse-to-lose attitude, all of those things were what carried us tonight,” Marshall said.
The press is so effective because WSU plays with such a fervor and tenacity when a ball handler picks up their dribble. The Shockers get after it and they can get after it for long stretches because Marshall has nine bodies at his disposal.
Below are some clips of SDSU getting sped up and committing turnovers. The Jackrabbits were careful with the ball in the first half, but eight of their 12 turnovers in the game came in the second half.
When SDSU did break the pressure, it faced a difficult question: attack, or pull out, run clock, and try to shorten the game?
“Part of what gave us the advantage is playing loose and free and scoring the ball,” Otzelberger said.”What has been successful for us is not trying to slow that down, so we kept our foot on the gas. Yet that speeds up the tempo of the game up and that’s what they were trying to do, create more possessions in the second half.
“If you get the lead by blitzing, we don’t want to go to the prevent defense.”
The game-winning surge for the Shockers began with 8:52 remaining and SDSU holding a 76-67 lead.
Over the next 10 possessions, a 4-minute stretch, WSU outscored SDSU 18-1 with its defense forcing four turnovers. Momentum seemed to swing for good when Morris dropped in a rainbow three-pointer from the top of the key, igniting the crowd and forcing Otzelberger to burn a timeout with his team’s lead down to 76-74.
A Zach Brown dunk and another Morris finish gave WSU its first lead, 78-77, after trailing for 28 of the previous 33 minutes. SDSU failed to come up with a response after the wave of momentum carried WSU into the lead.
WSU outscored WSU 28-9 in the final 8:52 of the game.