‘I’ve really not recognized our team:’ Marshall, Shockers looking for answers after back-to-back losses

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Marshall Sunner

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall reacts to a foul call during the game against Houston on Saturday inside Charles Koch Arena.

With 12:29 remaining in the second half, sophomore shooting guard Erik Stevenson hoisted up a three-pointer. The shot clanged off the back iron, and even though fellow sophomore Jamarius Burton was there to pick up this miss, all Head Coach Gregg Marshall could do was put his hands on top of his head.

That’s how the game was going for the Shockers on Saturday against Houston. Over and over again, Wichita State forced shots and bad passes to Marshall’s disapproval. Teammates were visibly seen arguing on the court, trying to bicker through the struggles.

On one occasion early in the second half, junior forward Trey Wade was passed the ball in the corner. At the top of the key, sophomore Dexter Dennis raised his hands in the air to signal for the three-pointer that he was expecting Wade to shoot – which he didn’t. Wade attempted to dribble out of the corner, and the defender that closed out forced a turnover.

Marshall Sunner
Wichita State sophomore Dexter Dennis and junior Trey Wade bicker after a turnover early in the first half of the game against Houston on Saturday inside Charles Koch Arena.

Dennis jumped in the air in frustration. He walked to up to Wade and pleaded to him to shoot the ball. Marshall, from the sideline, yelled at Wade as well.

Shoot the ball!

It hasn’t just been in the Houston contest that the team has looked down. The downward spiral actually started two games ago against UConn on Jan. 12. Even though they won, the Shockers let a nine-point lead with 1:05 left slip out of their hands, hearkening back to last year’s young team.

Against Temple on Wednesday, it was no different. Again, WSU couldn’t handle the Owls’ pressure in the front court and the offense couldn’t buy a bucket. The trend continued against the Cougars on Saturday.

Marshall said he sees it this way: the team has lost its unison during the two-game losing streak, and during this three game stretch.

“I’ve really not recognized our team,” Marshall said after the 65-54 loss to Houston. “I’m not recognizing this team from a competitive standpoint, from a toughness standpoint. Until we work that out, we aren’t going to be as good as we can be.”

Yet again, the Shockers struggled to score the basketball and turned the ball over repeatedly. Saturday, the team shot 30.4% (17-56) from the field and just 28% (7-25) from three-point range. They also had more turnovers (14) than assisted baskets (12).

After the loss, Marshall had a long moment with his team in the locker room as he tried to get to the bottom of his team’s problem. Senior post Jaime Echenique was said to be the most visibly upset after the loss behind the scenes, and Marshall said in the postgame press conference that he feels like his team “doesn’t recognize” what got them to the point of being the No. 16 team in the country.

“You guys have to get over your feelings,” Marshall said. “If you’re worried about you and you’re worried about how many points you’re scoring or how many shots you’re getting or how many minutes you’re getting, then that’s not healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys doing that.

“We’ve got more things going on behind the scenes that I’m not familiar with, and it’s spread. It’s like a crab grass in your beautiful lawn.”

During the locker room reckoning, Marshall said he was open to changing up the way he’s been coaching as of late. He said that he and his staff haven’t been as harsh as usual because the team has been “taking care of business” on and off of the court. But changes could be made depending on what the players decide at practice on Sunday.

“We can get as gnarly as you want,” Marshall said in reference to his coaching style.

Marshall Sunner
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall yells at freshman Grant Sherfield during the game against Houston on Saturday inside Charles Koch Arena.

The players understand that a change is going to have to be made. Stevenson, who has struggled in the last two games (3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 topg), said he believes the team got off track when they became nationally ranked.

“We saw a number by our name watching film and we were reading the press, drinking Kool-Aid,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to being the hungry dogs we were when we weren’t ranked, weren’t being talked about.”

As for the mood in the locker room, Stevenson left little doubt that it would be resolved.

“The leaders talked and we’re going to figure it out,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got to look in the mirror and take it like a man. We’re still a young team, but it’s time for us to grow up. We have some adversity now, so how are we going to handle that?”

The Shockers, who will likely fall out of the AP Poll when it drops Monday, will look to break out of their funk on Tuesday against South Florida in Tampa. Tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPNNews.

“We obviously have not played well these past two games,” Marshall said. “But we don’t have to worry about rankings anymore and streaks and what-not. We just need to worry about being a good basketball team.”