Andrew Wiggins' older brother Nick? He can ball, too -- especially on the defensive end
NOV 27, 2013 12:26a ET
Tyler Haws, yoga.
That's right. Yoga.
"I've been doing yoga all summer, all preseason, just to keep my body lower and my balance better," Wichita State guard Nick Wiggins said Tuesday night when asked about the clamp-down job he did on Haws, BYU's leading scorer, in a 75-62 victory in the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. "And you know, it's paying off. (Coach Gregg Marshall) is seeing my improvements."
Ron Baker (23 points, seven rebounds) walked away with the Classic's Most Valuable Player award, but the championship trophy, the big ol' cup Marshall hoisted to the heavily pro-Shocker crowd after the game?
That puppy was won on defense.
Team defense. The kind of angry defense that carried this bunch all the way to the Final Four this past March.
"They executed their stuff every play defensively," said Cougars guard Matt Carlino, who had 18 points in the first half -- but only three in the second. "I mean, they had a lot to do with us not making field goals. They're a really good team."
A really persistent one, too. Consider this: BYU came into Tuesday night averaging 93.2 points per game and shooting 38.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. One pass, two passes, maybe three, and the ball goes up.
The Cougars wound up with 62 points for the evening, and just 26 in the second half. They misfired on 15 of 20 treys, including an unsightly 0 for 10 over the final 20 minutes. They went without a single made field goal over the last 8:34 of the contest.
"Coach (Marshall) said they're a great team and they really play fast; they average a shot every 12 seconds in their offensive set," said Wiggins, who came off the bench to do most of the heavy lifting against Haws, who scored 17 -- nine below his season average coming in. "So Coach was like, 'You've just got to be ready.'"
After a shaky first seven minutes -- BYU run-and-gunned its way to a 19-6 lead to start the tilt, thanks to Carlino's hot hand -- they were. Along the way, the 12th-ranked Shockers answered two very big questions on the mind of their coach.
No. 1: How would they handle a big deficit against a quality dance partner?
No. 2: Could they force stops, big stops, down the stretch?
"To this point, this is the best team that we've played," said Marshall, whose squad pushed its record to 7-0. "And we've talked about how the schedule is going to be brutal from now until we get into (Missouri Valley play) and even when we get into conference (play), you know how tough that is. We certainly passed (this test) with a high mark.
"That was a gut-check game. It wasn't an easy game. It wasn't a pretty game. They zoned us for every possession except for one the whole game. And we just found a way."
For the 8,324 in attendance -- most of them wearing Shocker gold -- it was everything you wanted from the final of a fall invitational, upper-deck curtains notwithstanding. A couple of likely NCAA tourney teams, trading paint in an NCAA tournament venue.
"They kind of wore us out," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
Punch begat counterpunch, but the key adjustment of the first period came about midway through, when Marshall switched brawny wing guard Baker off Haws and over to the smaller Carlino. The senior from Arizona netted 11 points on three treys in the first 11 minutes of the half but drained just one 3-pointer over the next nine.
Come to think of it, the two biggest offensive stars on the floor -- Haws and Wichita's Cle Early -- were notable for the fact that they were, well, relative non-factors in the early going. In fact, Haws didn't score until there was 1:15 left in the first period. The junior star went into Tuesday night shooting 43.2 percent of the floor but wound up whiffing on 12 of his 15 attempts.
"(I) was just trying to make it tough for him, not trying to foul him," said Wiggins, older brother of Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, after a night that saw him score seven points, grab eight boards and make himself a general pest. "They said he shoots 11 free throws a game and he pushes off and holds, grabs, stuff like that.
"Just trying to be physical with him away from the referees. Then, when he catches the ball, just be all up in his face, not let him get any good looks at the rim."
Marshall trusted Wiggins to stay with Haws even late into the ballgame, something the coach said he wouldn't have done a year ago, when he let it be known -- publicly and privately -- that the defensive effort turned in by his 6-foot-6 Canadian swingman wasn't up to snuff.
Then again, that was before Wiggins discovered yoga.
"It was tough at first," Wiggins chuckled. "But I got used to it. We do (it) as a team, actually, in the weight room. We've got to get our bodies looser, so (the way) we've been going hard at practice, yes, it's beneficial."
Beneficial? For the Shockers on Tuesday night, it was positively beautiful.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.