Marshall eclipses program milestone, Shockers stay undefeated in the Valley

A+spotlight+shines+on+Wichita+State+head+coach+Gregg+Marshall.+

A spotlight shines on Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall.

Evan Pflugradt, Sports Editor

In 1955, the Wichita State — the Municipal University of Wichita, at the time — opened WSU Field House, now Charles Koch Arena, to the few dedicated supporters of an infant basketball program. 

Head coach Ralph Miller, seated on a footstool, watched his young-guns power around the basket in a less than sellout 10,235-seat arena. The program had nine season-ticket holders. 

“There were many people who thought we had no business in an arena that big — that we wouldn’t be able to fill the place,” Miller wrote in his book “Spanning the Game.” 

On Wednesday, Gregg Marshall captured a milestone victory with win No. 221, making him the program’s winningest coach, eclipsing Miller’s record of 220. The Shockers defeated Southern Illinois 76-55.

“To equal a legend in Coach Miller is a great moment,” Marshall said. “With great defense, tenacity and sound basketball, Ralph Miller built this team. [Miller] captivated this city and made basketball important. ”

The Shockers extended on their home winning streak — the longest in the NCAA — to 43 games.  

Marshall transformed the game in the house that Miller built. Miller captured 220 wins in 13 seasons with the Shockers while Marshall did it in nine. Marshall is the only coach in the NCAA to amass 30 wins in each of the last three seasons; his 83 percent winning percentage extending over the last five seasons is the nation’s best. 

Marshall’s team halted a second-half rally from the Salukis, who stretched an 8-5 run, with a three-point basket by WSU forward Evan Wessel. 

SIU’s Mike Rodriguez posted up for the answer on the other end but was held off by a WSU guard Conner Frankamp defensive stop. Frankamp pushed the ball the other direction. Driving down the court, he spun around a defender and kicked to an open Fred VanVleet who swished a three, putting the Shockers ahead by a 20-point margin. 

With under eight minutes remaining, Marshall huddled around his team with only one thing standing in his way: time. 

The clock eventually ticked down the sellout crowd of Charles Koch Arena stood to recognize the closing of an era and an opening to the future. 

Struggling off his first season as head coach, Ralph Miller tenaciously worked to build a team from the ground up. He ultimately left behind a Final Four squad.

With a story reminiscent of his predecessor’s, Marshall clarified that his journey with WSU is far from complete. 

“I was just talking to my son Kellen outside, he’s 19. This journey has been almost half of his life now,” Marshall said. “Nine years, it’s a long time. But we’re not yet done with our ninth season.” 

In the locker room, Marshall is the first to lead post-game celebrations. VanVleet said celebrations were different tonight. He added that Marshall failed to hide his smile.

“For him to pass that milestone is a special moment,” VanVleet said. “He won’t say it or acknowledge it much but we know how much it really means to him.”