No one on the Wichita State men’s basketball team wanted to nit-pick a road win over an SEC opponent immediately following the Shockers’ 61-55 win over Missouri last Friday.
“A win is a win,” WSU coach Isaac Brown said after his team left double-digit points on the table by committing 18 turnovers and missing 11 free throws.
But now it’s a new week and if the Shockers (5-1) are to win their second straight road game, they can’t afford the same mistakes when they play Oklahoma State (6-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The game will be available to watch streaming on ESPN+.
“Right now we’ve been scoring in the 60s. If we can ever put a game together where we shoot 70% or better from the free throw line and score 70% of our baskets in transition, I could see us scoring 75 to 80 points,” Brown said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. Some games we’re not making free throws, some games we’re turning it over. Hopefully we can put together two complete halves and play a great game down at Oklahoma State.”
In order to do that, Wichita State must improve in its transition offense.
The Shockers have struggled converting on fast breaks, but those issues peaked in the Missouri game when WSU turned the ball over eight times and came away with just two points in 14 transition opportunities logged by Synergy.
Entering Wednesday’s game, WSU ranks as the second-worst team in the country, per Synergy, in transition offense — No. 357 out of 358 teams — with a meager 0.62 points per possession. The average across the country is 1.01 points per possession.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” WSU point guard Craig Porter said after the Missouri game when asked about the transition offense.
WSU has a roster full of explosive athletes armed with length, a combination that should be good enough for, at worst, an average attack on fast breaks.
After watching his team consistently bungle 2-on-1, 3-on-1 and even 4-on-1 advantages, Brown has committed more time than ever in practice ahead of the Oklahoma State game on drilling decision-making in those split-second situations.
“Our practice (Monday) was all transition, fast-break offense,” Brown said. “You go on the road and when you don’t get transition baskets, it’s hard to win. You can’t go against a team in the half court all the time and try to score against their set defense. You’ve got to get easy baskets in transition. Those eight to 10 points can be the difference in the game. The only thing we can do is go back and watch video and show these guys their mistakes and try to get better each and every day in practice.”
Taking advantage of any and all transition opportunities on Wednesday will be even more crucial because Oklahoma State has one of the best defenses in the country. The Cowboys rank No. 9 in KenPom’s defensive adjusted efficiency and in the top 20 in points per possession in the halfcourt, per Synergy.
Opponents are shooting just 43% near the rim, one of the best marks in the country, largely because of the shot-blocking presence of 6-foot-10 sophomore Moussa Cisse, who is averaging 2.8 blocks per game and has one of the best block percentages in the nation.
Cisse should be a familiar presence to some of the Shockers, as he was the starting center at Memphis last season and also anchored one of the best defenses in the country there. Cisse finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in a 72-52 win over the Shockers in Memphis last January.
It’s a bad matchup on paper for a WSU team that is getting 15% of its shots swatted, a bottom-15 mark in the country.
“I think we’ve gotten better at that,” Brown said. “We’ve been watching a lot of film and showing them different scenarios where if you get to the basket and the big guys steps up, then you’ve got to make that pocket pass to the big guy like Morris (Udeze).
“The only thing you can do is show them the film. You can see it in practice and talk to them about it, but until they see it on film that’s the only thing that helps.”
Although Oklahoma State no longer has Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft who hit the game-winner in last season’s game at Koch Arena, it has a talented and balanced roster. Nine players average between six and 11 points with the names to know being the guard trio of Isaac Likekele, Bryce Williams and Bryce Thompson and super sub Kalib Boone, a 6-9 forward, off the bench.
Oklahoma State scored a nice neutral-site win over North Carolina State, but lost to Oakland at home and needed overtime to win at Oral Roberts last Friday. The Cowboys have been susceptible to turnovers this season, something WSU has excelled at this year amplified by its full-court pressure.
But avoiding turnovers is one of the biggest keys to the game in Brown’s mind. The Shockers have struggled with taking care of the ball lately and Oklahoma State feasts in transition, as it forces turnovers at the eighth-highest rate in the country.
“You’ve got to be sure about every pass against them,” Brown said. “We’re telling our guards that you’ve got to snap your passes and throw it to the first open receiver. And then we’ve got to meet the pass and catch it with two hands. You’ve got to cut, you’ve got to back cut, you’ve got to break to get open and hold your man off. It’s going to take a great game of passing and catching from us.”
Wichita State at Oklahoma State basketball preview
When: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Radio: 103.7 FM (Mike Kennedy and Bob Hull)
Series: OSU leads 31-10 (15-4 in Stillwater)
Last meeting: OSU won 67-64 at Koch Arena on Dec. 12, 2020
KenPom says: OSU 70, WSU 64
Projected starting lineups
Wichita State Shockers (5-1)
Coach: Isaac Brown, second season, 21-7
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1)
Coach: Michael Boynton, fifth season, 78-59