Why can’t Wichita State close out games?

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Why can’t Wichita State close out games?

Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall communicates with his players on Jan. 6, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena.

Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall communicates with his players on Jan. 6, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena.

Evan Pflugradt

Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall communicates with his players on Jan. 6, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena.

Evan Pflugradt

Evan Pflugradt

Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall communicates with his players on Jan. 6, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena.

The mood in Gregg Marshall’s locker room is much different than it typically is at the mid-point in the season.

“I don’t think anyone is real happy about it,” Marshall said. “I think we would like a different result.”

It’s the first time since 2009 that Wichita State has started conference play with three losses. Riding a four-game losing streak, the Shockers are quickly sinking to the bottom of the conference standings with Central Florida, the preseason favorite, and Cincinnati, last year’s conference champion, on the docket.

“We’ve gotten close,” Marshall said.

Selena Favela
Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie lays on the court after being fouled during the game against Temple Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.

At the half, WSU has led 10 of their 15 opponents this season.

At Houston, WSU held a five-point victory at the half. Houston won by nine. At home versus Temple, WSU hung onto a 13-point first-half lead. Temple left with a four-point overtime victory.

With a nine-point lead and under five minutes to play, KenPom gave WSU a 98.5 percent chance to beat Temple. The Shockers lost that game in overtime.

For much of the season, WSU has been on the cusp of victory. But their record (7-8) is largely attributed to the fact that the team hasn’t closed out the second half.

WSU’s last three opponents have each scored 41 points or more in the second half. In the last four games, WSU’s opponents have outscored them 162-123 in the second half.

Shooting drops to 37.8 percent in the second half (44.7 percent first half average). From three, the Shockers make just 27 percent in the second half, compared to 35.4 percent in the first half. Rebounding and assists have also dropped in the second half.

Selena Favela
Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie goes up for a shot during the game against Temple.

In WSU’s eight losses this season, defenses have forced the Shockers to record more turnovers (six) than assists (5). Three-point shooting has also dropped to a dismal average of 21.6 percent.

According to KenPom, a metrics resource, WSU has the worst rated defense in the American Athletic Conference. Houston showed that with hot second-half shooting, blasting a 14-0 run on seven second-half three-pointers.

“We caught them at a bad time,” Marshall said of Houston. “Finally their shooters got loose in the second half. Once you get them going — as good as shooters are they are — it doesn’t matter how you guard them at that point.

“We haven’t seen a shooting exhibition like that.”

Houston’s 46 points in the second half was the most points allowed in a half since Baylor posted 48 in the second half at Koch Arena earlier this season.

The Shockers return to action for a two-game home stretch starting with UCF at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

UCF brings 7-foot-6 forward Tacko Fall and preseason player of the year B.J. Taylor. The Knights have a 13-2 record.

Evan Pflugradt
Samajae Haynes-Jones knocks down a three-pointer for Wichita State on Jan. 7, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena.