“That’s the one thing that I’m unhappy about with him; we’re working to get it right”.
Shocker point guard Fred Van Vleet, leaving no doubt who’s team it is, on Cleanthony Early’s tendency to take plays off every now and then on the defensive end.
Did you notice that the five players Valley Television highlighted as favorites for Player of the Year changed from Thursday at SIU to yesterday against UNI? Fred Van Vleet had joined Early, taking over Ron Baker’s spot in the lineup as of yesterday, what with 21 assists and one turnover over his last four games and a scoring average of over 15 pts. during that stretch. Van Vleet is a smooth customer who uses change of speed as well as any player I’ve seen, he was marvelous scoring a new career high 22 points with 6 rebounds 3 assists and no turnovers against Northern Iowa.
I was at practice last Saturday and after a second half at Southern Illinois where defense was pretty much called in—there was a pretty strongly stated emphasis on defense and rebounding. It was good to see the Shocks regain their identity against the Panthers, who had a good chance in toughest place to play in the Valley. The Shockers only shot 38 percent, so they could have been had yesterday, but they squeezed UNI to just 33 percent and outscored the visitors by 13 in points off turnovers. It’s a key stat and this is where things come back around to Van Vleet, who’s turning it over barely once a game. If the Shockers continue their run, Early and Van Vleet are going to get some All-American run.
Fifteen straight wins to open the season, the longest winning streak in WSU hoops history and one of only 6 unbeaten teams remaining in the country—the Shockers should ascend to number six nationally in the AP poll today. Illinois State is in on Wednesday before the road show continues at Missouri State on Saturday. By the way, how about Missouri State losing by 32 points at Loyola yesterday?
It was a tough week for Oklahoma State. First, they lose center Michael Cobbins to an injury for the remainer of the year, then Missouri gets them in the Cotton Bowl and Saturday K-State finished off the trifecta with an upset of the then sixth-ranked hoopers. I know the timing was fortuitous, but the Wildcats haven’t won nine straight games because of good timing. Bruce Weber’s club is defending the way they did a year ago when they shared the Big 12 title and in Marcus Foster they have a blooming star. Just a freshman, his youth has yet to get in his way and he can be a dynamic scorer—but the semester addition of Jevon Thomas at the point has allowed this team to improve so much on the offensive end. The freshman has taken good care of the ball and has allowed Will Spradling to go back to the shooting guard where he’s far more comfortable and productive.
With four of their next six on the road, we’re going to learn a lot about this team, but after dropping 3 of 5 to start the season—then reeling off nine in a row with wins over Ole Miss, Gonzaga, George Washington and Oklahoma state included –we’ve already learned a bunch.
The streak ends---
Yesterday’s loss to San Diego State was just the 5th in 100 non-conference home games for the ‘Hawks under Bill Self. It ended a 68-game winning streak in Allen Field House, but the amazing thing about the game was that KU even had a chance to win it after shooting less than 30 percent. One of the weirdest stats you’ll ever see is KU blocking 13 shots, but giving up 19 offensive rebounds which lead to some key second-chance points down the stretch. While defense has been the bane of Bill Self, yesterday it was rebounding—he called his team ‘soft on the boards’ after San Diego State collected 13 more rebounds.
Coming off their lowest scoring output of the season, the Jayhawks travel to Oklahoma this week before getting Kansas State at home on Saturday. Games at Iowa State then home against Oklahoma State and Baylor means that KU needs to find itself quickly as they pursue a tenth-straight Big 12 title.
It’s all football in this column—from the BCS Championship to the heartbreak of the Chiefs collapse at Indy. Try to stay warm today.