How Houston’s dominant defensive performance changes WSU’s offense moving forward


Marshall Sunner

Wichita State freshman Tyson Etienne dribbles past a defender during the first half of the game against Houston on Saturday inside Charles Koch Arena.

Multiple times throughout this season so far, WSU has failed to respond to size and strength from opposing teams, and Saturday’s contest against Houston was no different. The Cougars came prepared and dominated the lane.

Houston made it their goal to not allow anything easy for WSU’s offense in the paint. The plan worked out to perfection. With their size and athleticism, Houston was able to block nine shots while the Shockers went on to shoot 10-31 on two-pointers in the game.

Although both teams lined pretty similar in size, the Cougars’ length was able to play a factor in forcing tough, contested looks throughout the game. Brison Gresham led the way with five blocks for the Cougars.

With Houston double-teaming the posts, it caused WSU to start forcing passes and shots, which resulted in turnovers and at times fouls.

“When someone broke down, someone was there to cover for them,” Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Our double teams in the post, I thought were good because we were good behind the double team. Our team defense was good tonight. ”

Houston helped to expose an area in Wichita State’s game in the amount of shots being blocked. Now, the Shockers rank 327th in the country in the percentage of their shots that end up being blocked at a rate of 11.5%, according to KenPom.

Following the 65-54 loss at the hands of the Cougars, Head Coach Gregg Marshall noted that he isn’t quite sure what’s wrong with his team in the past two games. But one of the main ways that they can combat these struggles in the lane is through a higher level of toughness and return to the ‘Play Angry’ style of play the program is known for.

“It’s been more like the team we’ve beaten over the years,” Marshall said. “That’s who we look like.”

One aspect of the team’s recent play that Marshall has noticed is the lack of ball movement with the offense. Earlier on this season, the Shockers were thriving in finding teammates open for three after driving in the lane.

In the last two losses, the offense has started to become more stagnant and a lack of ball movement has reared its ugly head. Currently, WSU is averaging 14.5 assists per game, but in the losses to Temple and Houston, they have only tallied a combined 20 assists.

“We’re trying to do it ourselves, as opposed to trying to get someone else a shot,” Marshall said.  We’ve got to be better at dribbling into the paint, drawing the defense and kicking as opposed to dribbling into the paint going up against not only the guy guarding us – who we may or may not have beaten to a degree – and then going up with the shot-blocker ready to just spike our shot.”

“It’s just not smart. So I think, in a way, the youth and inexperience of our team is now kind of reared its ugly head and we’ve got to do better.”

WSU will get an opportunity to showcase improved effort and toughness with a challenge against South Florida down in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday. Despite losing the 2019 AAC Freshman of the Year in Alexis Yetna, the Bulls remain one of the top defensive teams in the AAC with LaQuincy Rideau leading the charge.

Rideau, the defending AAC defensive player of the year, has continued to create havoc on opposing ballhandlers with a steal rate of 4.7% which ranks No. 13 in the country. David Collins has also been effective on the defensive side of the basketball for USF as he ranks in the top-40 with a steal rate of 4.1%.

The Shockers will need some improved toughness and energy which has started to take a dip in the last two contests.

“In my opinion, it’s all about the energy and effort,” sophomore guard Jamarius Burton said. “I feel like we didn’t display that in the last two games. We just got to look ourselves in a mirror. And when we change the little things, give energy and effort, make smarter plays, winning plays, and play tougher.”

Wichita State will look to snap its two-game skid and look to stay above .500 in conference play when they travel to take on the Bulls. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside the Yuengling Center.