‘Toughest on the court:’ Stevenson, Burton lead Shockers to dominant win, again


Morgan Anderson

Sophomore Erik Stevenson jumps to make a pass during the game against the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday, Jan. 4.

For the last four games, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall knew exactly who were the toughest guys that stepped out on the court. Saturday proved to be no different. For the fifth game in a row, Marshall made sure to mention that sophomore guards Erik Stevenson and Jamarius Burton were those guys.

And it’s a statement he’s started every press conference with during the two’s hot streak.

“That was a good performance by us. I thought Erik and J.B. (Burton) were just two of the toughest guys on the court, and J.B. made big shot after big shot late in the clock,” Marshall said on Saturday. “And Erik just had one of those special days.”

Both Stevenson and Burton are on fire, and the statistics show it. Over the five game stretch, Stevenson has solidified himself as the team’s go-to scorer, shooting 41% from the field and averaging 15.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. On the year, his scoring average has risen up to 14.1 points per game, a near eight point increase from his freshman year. Against Ole Miss on Saturday, Stevenson continued his hot streak by dropping a career-high 29 points on the Rebels in route to a 20-point victory, 74-54.

“He (Stevenson) loves playing against good teams, good players. He loves the man-on-man challenge, he really does,” Marshall said. “The better the team, sometimes, the more heated the game is, the more intense the game is, the better he plays. So, he’s just, you know, it’s his greatest strength and also sometimes his greatest weaknesses.”

“He’s got to make sure it keeps all of that channeled in the proper way. But if he does, God, I just love his confidence and his swagger, and I’ll take that effort from him every night.”

Burton, like his sophomore counterpart, has also continually improved off his freshman season a year ago. In the last five games, Burton has done it all. He’s averaging 11.6 points per game on 52% shooting, 4.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds. Against the Rebels, Burton hit big shot after big shot at the end of the shot clock late in the game.

But his most notable improvement has been his shot from behind the three point line. Last year, teams would sag off of Burton and dare him to shoot from deep – as he was shooting the three-ball at just a 26% clip. This year is different though, now the point guard has shot 13-26 from deep on the season and leads the team in three-point percentage at a blistering 50% rate. For himself, it all came from his work in the gym.

“It’s just a blessing to see the work that you put in pay of,” he said. “To go from 26 (percent) to 50 (percent) is a tremendous leap. I’m just trying to stay in the gym, get my reps up and grow even more confident in my abilities.”

Morgan Anderson
Sophomore Jamarius Burton passes the ball to junior Trey Wade during the first half of the game against Ole Miss on Saturday.

Against Ole Miss, the sophomore duo of Stevenson and Burton combined for 60% of the team’s points and made all six of the team’s shots from downtown. Outside of the two guards, the team shot just 32% (8-25) from the floor and missed all nine of their threes.

Even with a tough five-game stretch coming up against No. 9 Memphis, UConn, Temple, Houston, and South Florida, the Shockers made sure to stay focused on the Rebels – which pleased Marshall at the conclusion of the game.

“Our guys just did a wonderful job of listening, understanding the strategy that we want to employ to kind of take some of their things away,” Marshall said. “And we were able to pick the right guys to help us so very pleased with the outcome very pleased with how we competed and that’s a good win.”

The Shockers will look to continue their seven game winning streak on Thursday with a nationally-ranked matchup with the current No. 9 ranked Memphis Tigers. With Memphis’ loss to unranked Georgia on Saturday, the Tigers will likely slide in the AP Poll which will be released on Monday morning. WSU will likely move up a few spots with their win. Tip off against the Tigers is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside Charles Koch Arena.