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The Morning Dish – Friday, December 26, 2014

December 26, 2014 The Morning Dish No Comments

Wichita State has been playing with fire for a couple weeks now. On Christmas Day, George Washington made the Shockers ultimately pay for it.

Just like its game two nights ago against Hawai’i, Wichita State let a second half lead slip away. Unlike the Rainbow Warriors, this time George Washington finished the deal, rallying late for a 60-54 win in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic to send WSU to just its third loss in the last two seasons.

GW shut down the Shockers defensively with their 1-3-1 zone, limiting them to 34.4% shooting for the game and one field goal in the final six minutes. The Colonials trailed much of the game but finished on a 17-4 run for an in-season tournament title and a day on the spotlight on a day when just four NCAA Division I games were played.

For the Colonials, this isn’t quite as big a win as Stanford beating Texas or UNLV upending Arizona on Tuesday, but it’s not far off. The Shockers are going to be in the NCAA Tournament and likely a high seed, so this one is huge. Coming into Hawai’i, the Colonials had lost to probably the three best teams they had played (Virginia, Seton Hall, Penn State, all on the road). Coupled with a win over Colorado in the tourney semifinals, though, GW has answered most of the questions one could’ve had of its non-conference play.

The Colonials are solid defensively, unselfish offensively, and though not a deep team they are developing some depth. Freshman Yuta Watanabe in particular has been a terrific addition to the team’s core, and he had 10 points in this one, including the go-ahead basket late.

The game also is going to lead to at least a few more questions about Wichita State, which right now is simply too inconsistent offensively. The Shockers shot just 21 of 61 for the game, and while they hit a strong 11 of 27 from three-point range, they also were an ugly 10-for-34 from inside the arc.

Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker both struggled from the field (combined 8-for-27), an issue all season for VanVleet and in this tournament for Baker. WSU also continues to search for consistency from its young bench (Ri’an Holland had a career-high nine points off the bench, but fellow freshman Rashard Kelly had zero points after scoring 12 two nights earlier), and in fairness it did miss enforcer Evan Wessel in the last two games of this tournament.

The Shockers have had a whole lot of close calls of late, and their current 10-2 record could very easily be about 7-5. It’s been said over and over that this is not the same team as last year, but this year’s squad also now has shown several times (in losses to GW and Utah) that it can’t always rely on late flourishes to come back. Gregg Marshall’s team will need to find some consistency soon, and its veteran talent and the periodic spurts of excellence from newcomers would indicate that is achievable. Wichita State will need it, as the Missouri Valley Conference is better than it was last year and has a number of teams licking their chops for another chance at WSU.

 

Side Dishes:

  • Hawai’i capped a very nice showing in the tournament it plays host to with a 69-66 win over Colorado in the third-place game of the Diamond Head Classic. No other words for it, this was an outstanding tournament for the Rainbow Warriors.
  • Nebraska topped Ohio University 73-58 in the fifth-place game in Hawai’i. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields both scored 22 as the Huskers won two of three in the Diamond Head.
  • Loyola Marymount edged DePaul 72-69 in the seventh-place game. The Lions salvage a win and defeated the Blue Demons for the first time since 1967, while the game capped a miserable tourney for DePaul, which has seen a promising start to the season go south in spectacular fashion of late with six straight losses. Unfortunate, as this team showed early on in a win over Stanford that it can be better than this.
  • In case you missed it, Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki checked in with the New Hampshire Wildcats the other day, a long-struggling program that has shown some signs of life this season.

 

Today’s Menu:

No games today, as teams get one more day off after Christmas before getting back to work. College basketball will return to action fully on Saturday. Until then, enjoy the company of family and some bowl games on Friday.

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