Around one out of every three shot attempts for the Wichita State Shockers has been a three point attempt during the 2012-13 season. In Saturday night’s 76-70 upset of 1-seed Georgetown, one out of every two three-point shots hit net; thus, Wichita State marches on with a Sweet 16 date with LaSalle in the surprising top of the West Regional bracket set for Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Saturday night.
“I’ve always said, if we shoot the ball well, we’re hard to beat, and tonight we shot it well,” said Wichita state coach Gregg Marshall, who has his Shockers cresting at the right time, “It was one of those nights where it went in. It was young players making big‑time plays, big‑time shots.”
Wichita State is a team noted for it’s defense as the Shockers have held opponents to right around 39% and 60 ppg. on the season. Saturday night against Gonzaga, it was another excellent offensive effort by Cleanthony Early. He had 21 points, four triples, and seven boards to follow up on a 16-and-7 performance in the opening win over Pitt. Early’s athleticism was an obvious matchup issue for the Zags. In the end, he was manifesting his overall offensive game which has been a major part of the Shockers’ scheme this season.
“If we don’t add Cleanthony to the mix this year as a junior college transfer, we’re not sitting here at the NCAA Tournament,” noted Marshall, “He is supremely talented. He wants to please. He is more of an offensive player than a defensive player right now, but he’s tried. He’s been very receptive to coaching.”
Early had been sick two weeks ago in the MVC Tournament as the Shockers got to the finals in losing a 68-65 decision to Creighton. For the first time all season and as a Shocker, Early had three consecutive single digit games in the MVC Tournament. He just needed to get well and get his energy back so he could return to playing a major role in the scheme.
“Every once in a while, he bristles at the directness of our coaching staff, but I think ultimately what is most exciting for him and for us is how much better he can become on that end of the floor – rebounding, defense, and there are some things offensively that he can improve upon as well,” commented Marshall, who sees the potential that Early has to achieve at a high level, “When that happens we’re going to have just a tremendous, tremendous basketball player. He’s really good now!”
Senior Carl Hall, Wichita State’s most major presence inside, has latched onto Early and his versatility. He discussed how the sophomore, who leads the team in scoring at 13.9 ppg., has become a key in the attack and made the jobs of the other Shockers much easier in his first year.
“He stretches the defense because he can shoot the ball so well,” commented Hall, “He can drive it well and he kinda gives us an advantage on offense because he’s a 3‑man playing the 4‑spot, so it stretches the defense and it helps our offense out a lot.”
Early will have a major presence in his matchup with the athleticism of LaSalle and Atlantic 10 leading scorer Ramon Galloway, who can score in waves. Early is not the type of scorer, though, to get into a shootout situation inside of a game with an opponent. He’s very unselfish and realizes that with a group of players that are generally newcomers, his play inside of Marshall’s framework and the chemistry is a major key if Wichita State is to win two more games and advance to the Final Four.
“We definitely had an expectation that we could make it to the tournament and we had to play hard,” said Early, “It was a whole bunch of new guys coming in and everyone said it was a rebuilding year and they didn’t expect to us get this far and that for ourselves were higher than what people gave us. We tried to play hard and work hard every single day to make that happen.”
- Ken Cross
Related Posts:Stats Slant: Getting ready for a magical ride –…Five teams you don’t want to see when feeling…Five reasons the Oklahoma State Cowboys are riding highNCAA Picks, Day 3 – Round of 32Local freshman already helping Wright reorganize Wildcats