‘No nights off’: Shockers look to snap 3-game losing skid against

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Marshall Sunner

Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall calls a play during the second half of the game against Cincinnati on Feb. 6 inside Charles Koch Arena.

After three straight losses, Wichita State has dropped to sixth place in the American Athletic Conference with a 5-5 conference record. The Shockers will have a chance to return Thursday as they travel to Orlando to face off with Central Florida.

The Shockers are 4-0 all-time against the Knights. In their only road trip to Orlando two seasons ago, WSU picked up an overtime victory.

In this season’s first meeting, the Shocker offense lit up the Knights for 87 points. One of the major keys to that victory was the UFC bigs getting into foul trouble. Colin Smith and Avery Diggs combined for nine fouls in 23 minutes.

Currently, the metrics are split on the outcome down in Orlando. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives UCF a 51.3% chance of a victory. On the other hand, KenPom gives the Shockers a 59% chance of pulling off the road victory. KenPom predicts a final score of 67-64.

Gregg Marshall and company know they have to make every game count going forward. With only eight games remaining on the schedule, each one is now amplified.

‘There’s no nights off. We knew that going in,” Marshall said earlier this week.

Since the matchup between the two teams last month, the Shockers and Knights have been trending in opposite directions. The Shockers are winless in three games while the Knights have gone 2-2 with wins against East Carolina and Tulsa.

UCF has gotten hot from beyond the arc recently, knocking down 12 threes in their upset win against the Golden Hurricane. Despite this outside success, Marshall said his team must also be prepared for the Knights’ inside game — especially Colin Smith.

“[Matt] Milon can really shoot it. Dazon Ingram isn’t a great shooter, but some of those freshman – I think Tony Johnson, a kid who I don’t think had hit a three all year long, hit four in our building,” Marshall said. “So, we’re going to not let them hit 12 threes. That wouldn’t be good. They’ve got a good inside game, too. Colin Smith is a very talented inside player. He plays inside-out, really. He’s 6-10 but can really dribble it and pass it and handle it well from the perimeter.”

Another aspect of what makes UCF’s offensive attack unique is their ability to play both big and small. With both Smith and Diggs getting into foul trouble last game, the Knights switched up to some small-ball. WSU will have to be ready for both styles of play.

“[Going small] kind of spurred their comeback, so we’ve got to work against that,” Marshall said. “We have to be prepared for two different looks — team that can play man-to-man but can also play some zone. They can play big and small, so we need to be prepared to win.”

The Shockers will look to get back to their winning ways in Orlando tomorrow at Additional Financial Arena. Tip for the critical conference matchup is scheduled for 6 p.m.