In his inspirational, televised pregame speeches, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has repeatedly told his team to “play angry”. The No. 9 Shockers did just that in the Elite Eight, showing innate toughness and a refusal to back down in a 70-66 upset of No. 2 seed Ohio State.
Wichita State’s physical play and ability to absorb punishment from a bigger team had fans on social media buzzing.
Carl Hall (eight points, six blocked shots) got decked by this painful-looking DeShaun Thomas elbow to the jaw early on [click the image to put it in motion], but didn’t miss a minute of play as a result.
Cleanthony Early went down with what board-certified arthroscopic surgeon* Reggie Miller speculatively diagnosed as an “achilles tear” but returned to the floor to finish out a 12 point, seven rebound, two block game.
The game looked like a laugher in Wichita State’s favor for roughly 30 minutes, until Ohio State mounted a furious comeback in the latter stages of the second half. WSU’s miscues and lack of poise during that stretch prompted fan comparisons to Kansas’ Sweet Sixteen flameout to Michigan from the day before. In the end, however, the Shocker backcourt weathered Big Ten pressure and closed out the victory by drawing fouls and getting to the line. Point guard Malcolm Armstead, an Oregon transfer, had an excellent game, scoring 14 points to go with seven boards, three assists and three steals.
Gregg Marshall’s coaching stock has just begun to heat up. This Final Four for the Shockers marks the first time a Missouri Valley program has gone to the last weekend since Larry Bird and the 1979 Indiana State Sycamores. Expect to see plenty of people in black and gold trying to figure out which Peachtree they need to turn right on in Atlanta this time next week.
*Reggie Miller is an announcer and former NBA player with no known medical training. Something he may want to bear in mind in the future.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.