No. 11 Wichita State looks to tighten up defense

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall insists nothing has changed about his philosophy. He’s always emphasized defense and rebounding. This season’s squad, however, hasn’t always played like it, especially in its last two games.

No. 11 Wichita State has one more chance to shore up its defense before starting its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference, when Florida Gulf Coast visits Charles Koch Arena on Friday.

The Shockers (9-2) bounced back from a 91-83 loss to Oklahoma last week with a hard-fought 89-80 win over Arkansas State on Tuesday. The visiting Red Wolves led 50-44 at halftime. It was the second straight game that Wichita State allowed 50 or more points in the first half.

Samaje Haynes-Jones came off the bench to score 27 points and Landry Shamet scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half to rally the Shockers.

“We honestly have not changed anything that we have done defensively in 11 years,” Marshall told reporters after the win over Arkansas State. “Man-to-man-wise, we try to do the same stuff we were doing day one. We just have better players now than we did year one. But I don’t know if we have hit a bad streak, or I don’t know if I am not doing nearly a good enough job, or if the personnel is just different.”

Florida Gulf Coast (7-6) also has struggled on the defensive end of the floor. The Eagles are surrendering 82.8 points per game and gave up 91 in a loss at Florida International on Tuesday. Florida Gulf Coast has lost four of five.

“Our defense was terrible again, and our ability to take care of the ball is non-existent right now,” Eagles coach Joe Dooley. “We need to find our identity, because right now we don’t have one. It’s inexcusable to give up more than one double-figure lead in an entire season, and we’ve done it four times now.”

Wichita State also is looking for its identity, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

“I guess that will be determined. We have a long year with 21 games left in the regular season,” Marshall said. “We will have the American Athletic Conference tournament, and hopefully something after that. But that will be determined, and I will not say yes or no, it will play itself out.”

Senior guard Brandon Goodwin leads the Eagles in scoring, averaging 18.8 points. Florida Gulf Coast likes to push the tempo and looks to get out in transition at every opportunity.

“First of all, we want to try to make shots and not turn the ball over,” Wichita State assistant coach Isaac Brown. “When you turn the ball over against them, it’s like you really have to get back in transition then because their point guard — Goodwin and (junior Zach) Johnson — those guys are really pushing the ball hard, and they are good in transition.

“We want to try not to turn it over, and we want to make sure we take good shots. I think, when you do those two things against a team that is pushing it in transition, you are able to get back and get in front of them and have your defense set.”