Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.
Three Key Takeaways.
- No Shock. While Wichita State came into its first two games as underdogs, the Shockers were the favorite on Thursday night. And they played like it. Against a La Salle team featuring a variety of options around the perimeter, the Shockers displayed not only the athleticism and quickness to stick with all of those smaller offensive options, but guys like Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early – both bigger than all but one player in the La Salle rotation – operated with impunity in the middle. Wichita dominated on the glass, grabbing 45.9% of their own misses and 77.9% of La Salle’s, while outscoring the Explorers in the paint 40-26 (a number that was 24-10 at half). The Shockers never trailed and spent the final 36 minutes of the game leading by at least eight points.
- But Can They Play With The Buckeyes? The Shockers have time and again shown an ability to play with their opponents in this NCAA Tournament regardless of the style of play they face. Against the rugged Pitt Panthers, the Shockers fought them tooth and nail on the glass and dominated them despite shooting just 2-of-20 from deep. Against the high-scoring Gonzaga Bulldogs, Wichita got it done with improbably hot shooting, knocking down 14 threes. And against La Salle they locked up perimeter scorers on the defensive end and pounded it inside on offense. Ohio State is certainly a different animal all together, but this Shockers team has the athleticism at all areas of the floor to compete with the big favorite.
- Ron Baker, Late Season Addition. The Shockers missed their redshirt freshman guard for 21 games this season due to injury, but he is back with a vengeance. He scored 16 efficient points against Gonzaga and did a ton of other work, racking up a +19 plus/minus number in that game. Tonight he was his same versatile self, knocking down a couple more threes on the way to 13 points for the night and a +22 plus/minus (second on his team only to Hall’s +24), supplying heady passing, timely shooting and some great defensive effort
Star of the Game. Carl Hall, Wichita State. The newly shorn Shocker big fella controlled the paint tonight, knocking down seven of eight first half shots and grabbing six boards in helping his team build up an insurmountable 16-point halftime lead. While he wasn’t nearly as effective in the second half as the game turned into a guard-dominated affair (he wound up with 16 points, eight boards and three blocks), the damage had been done.