Three Thoughts as Wichita State Stays PerfectPosted by Walker Carey on February 6th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday’s game between Wichita State and Indiana State in Terre Haute.
Wichita State has been one of the best stories of college basketball this season, as the Shockers entered Wednesday evening with a perfect 23-0 record. Gregg Marshall’s squad has been so successful this season in large part because of its veteran and winning experience. Many of the key contributors from last season’s Final Four team are back and that has laid the groundwork for this team’s tremendous start. Since Missouri Valley play began last month, members of the esteemed college basketball media picked out Wichita State’s road trips this week at Indiana State and Saturday night at Northern Iowa as the likeliest stretch for the Shockers to pick up their first setback. Now through one game of the pair, the Shockers remain unbeaten. Despite a raucous environment in Terre Haute clamoring for a victory, Wichita State fought off a pesky Indiana State team and emerged with a 65-58 victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday night’s action.
- Indiana State Gave The Shockers Quite The Battle. When Indiana State coach Greg Lansing called a timeout with 1:22 left to play, it was his team’s ball and the Sycamores’ deficit was just two. With the home crowd decidedly and loudly in their favor, it appeared as if this Valley battle was headed to a thrilling finish. Wichita State, however, had other plans, as it forced a key defensive stop, utilized a critical three-point play from forward Cleanthony Early, and made its free throws to key a 7-2 finishing run. Nothing came easy for the Shockers on this night, as they had to combat an explosive offensive Indiana State effort in the first half and a smothering defensive effort in the second. Wichita State was ultimately victorious to move its overall record to 24-0 and 11-0 in the MVC, but it must be noted that win number 24 came with a battle.
- Cleanthony Early is a Big Time Player. While Early’s reputation as a big time performer dates back to last season’s incredible Final Four run, performances like Wednesday’s only serve to reinforce that reputation. The senior forward struggled in the first half, as he only had four points on two field goal attempts and did not collect a single rebound. The second half was a different story for the senior. He tallied 15 second half points, grabbed five important rebounds, and used his brawn to get to the free throw line nine times (where he made eight). Indiana State is a very guard-oriented team and it did a fantastic job defensively with Wichita State’s stellar backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, but the Sycamores had no answer for Early inside and his post presence in the second half was a major reason why Wichita State left the Hulman Center with a victory.
- An Undefeated Regular Season Appears Possible. Entering Wednesday, Indiana State was the only other team in the league with a winning conference record, so it wouldn’t be off base to think that last night’s game was the toughest road test the Shockers will face in conference play this season. While the Shockers still have seven more games on their regular season slate, they should enter each one as a very heavy favorite. It is quite possible that a team could catch the Shockers on an off night and end the pursuit of a perfect season, but considering the team’s talent advantage and what it has done thus far, it is not unrealistic to expect it to open Arch Madness with a sterling and unbeaten 31-0 record.