‘It’s a big challenge:’ Shockers prepare for matchup with Memphis


Lena Alhallaq/ The Sunflower

Wichita State freshman Ricky Council IV looks to pass during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 10.

Wichita State is looking to pick up its first road victory against Memphis since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2017. 

Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown met with the media prior to WSU’s matchup with the Tigers on Thursday at 6 p.m. 


Preparing for Memphis

The Tigers were picked to finish second in the AAC this offseason, right behind Houston. But the Tigers have got off to a sluggish 6-5 start and a 2-2 record in conference play. 

Brown said that being prepared and taking it one game at a time will be key.

“I think it’s a big challenge for our guys because Memphis was picked ahead of us. They’ve got the team with all the five-stars, they’ve got the team with the top recruiting class. We’ve just got to do a good job of staying ready for the next opponent.”

Brown said despite Memphis’ slow start this season, it will be critical for WSU to come ready to play.

“I’m sure our guys will come ready to play but it’s just a big challenge,” Brown said. “That team being picked ahead of us and having a coach like Penny Hardaway, I think our guys will be ready to go. It’s going to be a big challenge. They’re the most talented team in the league so we’ve got to do a good job of taking care of the basketball, rebounding and defending at a high level.”

Memphis will have fans in the FedEx Forum for the first time this season. Brown said that because of this the Shockers could see the best of Memphis on Thursday.

“I’m sure they will play with a lot of energy,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to do a good job of going down and playing well. Anytime you can win on the road is always great. So I think our team is just excited to play the next game. Memphis is the next game. So we’ll be up for the challenge.”


The Tigers’ Defense

One of Memphis’ strengths this season has been the performance of its defense which currently ranks No. 12 country in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. 

Brown said that WSU needs to do the little things in order to be effective against the Tigers on offense. 

“They’re long, athletic, they try to steal the ball on every possession,” Brown said. “They’ve got one of the best on ball defenders in Alex Lomax. We’ve got to do a good job of making sure that on every rebound we secure the basketball, on every pass we pass it with two hands and just know that they’re always trying to steal the ball. We’ve got to do a good job of taking care of it.”

One of Memphis’ strengths is  forcing turnovers. The team has been forcing them at a 22.7% rate, which ranks No. 22 nationally. 

They force 16 turnovers a game, they’re really good on-ball defenders, and they’re good at trapping balls screens. So we’ve just got to do a good job with our spacing.

Brown said that point guard Alterique Gilbert’s performance will be key due the amount of time the ball is in his hands on offense. WSU has one of the lowest turnover rates in the country at 15.5%, which is the 24th-best in the country.

He’s the guy on our team that has got the ball in his hand most of the time and against Memphis, that’s going to be huge because he’s going up against Alex Lomax, who is a great on-ball defender,” Brown said. “He’s just got to value the basketball, take care of it, create shots for Tyson, Dexter, Trey, all those guys.


Longer Layoff

With WSU’s game against SMU postponed last Sunday, the Shockers had extra time off with no game action.

Brown said that the extra time off allowed players the chances to work on their crafts while not having to prepare for a game last weekend.

I think our guys had a couple of days where we could just focus on making shots, staying in condition, doing a lot of individual workouts to work on our weaknesses,” Brown said. “They did a good job this week of just practicing. We had one off day and we just really have been doing a lot of going up and down like five on zero types of stuff.

The Shockers scrimmaged Saturday, which helped them to get some competition despite the lack of a game this weekend.

On Saturday, we had a scrimmage game since we weren’t going to have a game on Sunday,” Brown said. “We wanted to get up and down and play a lot of scrimmage games. So what we did was we played four 5-minute scrimmage games and we divided the teams up. We played versus man, we played versus run and jump, we played versus zone and we just competed. I thought we got a lot out of it.

The following day was an off-day for WSU but yesterday included more individual instruction. 

“Yesterday we did individual instruction where it was no contact and it was just guys getting in the gym working on their weaknesses, getting up a lot of shots,” Brown said. “We did a lot of ball handling and just a lot of drills.”