“Protect the children folks”…the only thing I could think to say describing Tekele Cotton’s second half dunk on Illinois State’s John Jones last night.
Another slow start---
Gregg Marshall would rather not have to bother with another slow start on the road, his club’s second straight. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that the Shockers were only down three at the half, they seemed a step behind the entire twenty minutes. You knew it was going to be one of those nights when they opened the game with four straight turnovers, you wonder if they weren’t just a little over amped by the big crowd (Illinois State’s largest in four years). Whatever the cause, the result was a team that looked bad at times and worse at others.
There wasn’t any yelling or screaming at the half, just a head coach wondering aloud if his guys recognized themselves in the first half. Of course, the rest is history---just like at Missouri State an early 7-0 run to restore some order, then, save for one spectacular moment, a very measured effort in a dominant second half. The 19 point flip nets Wichita State a 20-0 start the second best in Missouri Valley Conference history behind Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979.
There were about three spurts in the second half that came so effortlessly and quickly that left you wondering how they could have struggled during any part of the game. Particularly noteworthy was that seven-nothing hit in a minute early in the second, going from one down to six up. Later, Illinois State had cut a 16 point deficit to nine only to see Cleanthony Early bang down a three from the corner before Fred Van Vleet stole a pass at midcourt and drove for two. Ten seconds, five points—from nine down right back out to 14—ballgame.
I watch a lot of basketball; I don’t think I’ve seen a better dunk than Tekele Cotton’s late in the second half last night. The play was the perfect union of incredible ‘ups’ and an opposing player arriving at the exact moment to provide Cotton with a little more lift, as if he needed it. At 6’2” he had the ball above the top of the square before he nearly tore down the rim. As he threw down there was an audible gasp through the arena, one of excitement and disbelief ---of fans, momentarily forgetful of their allegiance trying to stifle a scream, even the Illinois State bench reacted to it. I can only imagine the grief that the 6’9” Jones will take from his own teammates for being so blown up, as one person courtside said “ I thought he killed him”.
Top of the Valley---
The Shockers are now 5-0 against the second through fifth place teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning those games by an average of 14 points. The thing is, it could be worse, but Gregg Marshall isn’t one to rub it in—his subs have played minutes, in some cases a lot of minutes, in every conference game save for Missouri State.
Last night was the first night I felt like I was traveling with rock stars, the anticipation for WSU’s visit to Illinois State was palpable. Illinois State officials thought that the size of their student section was the biggest it’s ever been at Redbird Arena and for most of the game they were raucous—but, as is usually the case with Wichita State on the road, in the end silence was golden.