32-0 Shockers keep showing they have the right 'stuff,' defensively, in the paint
MAR 07, 2014 5:44p ET
ST. LOUIS -- Darius Carter smiled and shook his head.
"It looked like he was playing the wrong sport," the Wichita State forward said, nodding to 6-foot-9 Kadeem Coleby as the big lug sat in his locker stall. "I thought he was playing volleyball out there."
If the resident bracketologist on your block has any questions as to how the second-ranked Shockers, now 32-0, would "handle" -- use air quotes; it works better with air quotes -- a legitimate post scorer in the NCAA tournament, well ...
We give you Friday.
Egidijus Mockevicius is a 6-foot-10 Lithuanian, a sophomore on the Evansville basketball team with reasonable enough footwork and the wingspan of a small pterodactyl. In 18 Missouri Valley Conference games, our man Edgie led all Valley players in field-goal percentage (.632), rebounding average (8.9) and defensive rebounding average (6.4) while ranking second in blocked shots (2.1 per contest).
Edgie's line Friday in the first quarterfinal at the 2014 MVC tournament, against those "too small" Shockers? Eleven points, 11 boards and one block, with six field-goal misses to go with five field-goal makes.
Meanwhile, Wichita blocked 11 Aces shots. Eleven.
Coleby, a senior transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, accounted for six swats all by himself -- a new season high.
"Oh, man," chuckled Coleby, who entered Arch Madness averaging 2.6 points and 2.8 boards but collected six and four, respectively, as the Shox thrashed the Aces, 80-58, at Scottrade Center. "It's been a long time since I've had six blocks.
"I'm still trying to reach my career high. I thought I had eight twice when I played in (2011) with Lafayette."
Yep. Eight swats on Nov. 11, 2011, versus Northern Arizona, then eight again, at North Texas, on Feb. 18, 2012.
"It's great to see him come out and do that," teammate Nick Wiggins noted. "In the future, down the road, (to) continue on in this tournament and you look at the NCAA tournament, he's going to be a great, big help for us."
"He's really getting his timing down," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said of Coleby. "At one point in the year, he was a little awkward with his timing. He was fouling. It was cumbersome. He did not look fluid. Now he looks really good back there as a deterrent."
March is about guards and stops, not necessarily in that order. One of the great little stats from a season of great little stats, dotted all along the Wichita resume, is this one: In the march to 32-0, only three teams have shot better than 49 percent from the floor against The Play-Angry Crew. Evansville -- thanks to the reach of Mockevicius -- was one of them, on Feb. 16.
But not Friday. The Aces put the rock up 57 times. Only 21 of those were converted, for a fairly unsightly clip of 36.8 percent. And that was with sophomore wing guard D.J. Balentine doing his best Steph Curry impression, making seven of his 14 attempts from beyond the arc, 10 of 21 shots overall, and dropping 31 on the Shox.
"We ran fresh bodies at him, and maybe that had an effect (in the second half)," Marshall said. "He could've gone for 40 points."
And the Shox won by 22 anyway.
"With Coleby, (Chadrack) Lufile down there, they're just extremely talented, great shot-blockers," said Balentine, one of the few non-Shockers on the first-team All-MVC squad. "When they pressure up top, that allows them -- if we do drive by them, they have a second defender down there just continuing.
"It's kind of like what Egidijus does for us, but they have two or three down there that can do it. So that makes it difficult."
"In practice, people think we're working on how to beat other teams," Coleby said. "We're working on how to stop other teams. We're working on defense. We barely do offensive stuff."
"Practice is always a war," Wiggins said. "And even when we were 20-0, practice was still a war. Coach Marshall's not going to change. Our coaching staff is not going to change. And, you know, that's helped our game, because they hold us accountable for everything."
Everything. Back to front, perimeter to post. And all points in between.
"It's hard to make passes just from A to B," Aces coach Marty Simmons said. "They contest every pass on the catch. They do a great job of pressuring. They'll play off certain guys to take things away. ... I mean, they play as hard as anybody that we've competed against. I mean, they're as good as anybody we've played defensively."
Any other questions?
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.