For the fourth-ranked Wichita State Shockers, Saturday’s game against Evansville represented a stiffer test than some may have realized. Marty Simmons’ Purple Aces beat the Shockers twice last season, and despite the graduation of Colt Ryan (he scored 29 in the win at Wichita State) Evansville had another capable scoring guard in D.J. Balentine.
Balentine had it rolling early and so did his teammates, as Evansville made its first eight shots from the field and led by 15 points (29-14) with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. The Purple Aces were finding their desired spots offensively, with Balentine scoring 13 of those 29 points, and Wichita State didn’t defend at the level we’ve come to expect from them either.
That changed however, with Gregg Marshall’s Shockers ramping up the defensive intensity and forcing multiple turnovers to turn that 15-point deficit into a six-point lead at the intermission. And in the second half Wichita State kept its foot on the gas, leading by as many as 19 points before winning 81-67. The Shockers were balanced offensively, with Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet scoring 14 points apiece and Cleanthony Early (13 points) and Tekele Cotton (12) reaching double figures as well.
But the story from this one was Wichita State’s defense, with the Shockers displaying both ends of the spectrum on Saturday afternoon. When they’re struggling defensively, and this would be the case with many teams across the country, Wichita State looks vulnerable. But when they’re at their best defensively, attacking teams and “playing angry,” scoring points on Wichita State becomes an incredibly difficult task. After their hot start Evansville would finish the first half with ten turnovers, and Wichita State scored nine points off of those mistakes.
Now Wichita State hits the road for arguably their two toughest Missouri Valley Conference games, as they’ll face Indiana State and Northern Iowa over the next week. And if Wichita State is to take care of business they’re going to need to be consistent defensively. Do that, and regardless of what outsiders may think of their schedule the Shockers have the potential to be a special team.
Colorado sophomore forward Tory Miller has been reprimanded by the Pac-12 and he also apologized for biting Air Force’s Hayden Graham earlier this week.
During Colorado’s win over Air Force on Wednesday, Miller was assessed a Flagrant 2 Dead Ball Technical Foul and ejected with 12:25 left in the second half after biting Graham during a loose ball.
In a release from the Pac-12, they announced reprimanding Miller, but he will not be suspended.
“All of our student-athletes must adhere to the Pac-12’s Standards of Conduct and Sportsman-ship,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in the release. “Regardless of Mr. Miller’s frustration and emotion, such behavior is unacceptable and he is being appropriately reprimanded.”
Miller also released his apology in the same release.
“I would like to apologize for my actions during the Air Force game. I would like to apologize to Hayden Graham, Air Force, my teammates and fans. It was a heat of the moment thing. I’m an emotional player, but I let my emotions get the best of me. I will use this as a learning experience and focus on helping my teammates and respecting my opponents for the rest of the season and beyond,” Miller said.
For Miller to not be suspended for this is good news for him and Colorado since he won’t miss any additional action, but did the Pac-12 make the right decision on this?
Michigan State has climbed on the back of star senior wing Denzel Valentine early in the season but they’ll undoubtedly need more help as the season goes on if they want to sustain their current top-5 ranking. One of the keys to the Spartans could be the on-going health of sophomore point guard Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn, who is battling a foot injury.
According to a report from Kyle Austin of MLive.com, Nairn has been putting on a protective boot the last few months to help battle plantar fasciitis as the guard has been playing in practices and hasn’t had his minutes reduced in games.
The injury looked like it was hurting Nairn’s early-season play, but he’s been very good in two games at the Wooden Legacy in California this week, so it could be that he’s getting more used to playing through the pain of the injury.
If Nairn is healthy and capable of contributing, he’s a huge boost to Michigan State because he’s one of the fastest players in college basketball and an additional ball handler on the floor. Through six games so far this season, Nairn is averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 assists per game as he’s been one of the team’s best distributors.
Plantar fasciitis can be a tough injury to fight through, so we’ll have to see if this affects Nairn as the season goes along.