When Wichita State had four losses by the end of November, it was alarming. But the Shockers were an incomplete team at the time with much better basketball in its future. On Saturday they were in top form with No. 25 Utah in town and got some revenge with a dominant 67-50 win.
It was Utah that handed Wichita State its first loss of the season with a Delon Wright jumper in overtime one year ago in Salt Lake City. Gregg Marshall’s team was keyed in and opportunistic from the opening tip, cruising along with the lead throughout the afternoon thanks to Utah’s own errors. By the end of the game the Utes had turned it over 19 times, directly contributing to 25 of Wichita State’s 67 points.
Zach Brown had a good game offensively for the Shockers with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting and Marcus McDuffie got in the mix as well, but the big takeaway remains the impact of Fred VanVleet being back in the lineup. Wichita State can win in the Missouri Valley Conference without him, but VanVleet is a necessary piece for making this team a threat nationally.
After a week off, Wichita State has another chance to improve its non-conference resume against Seton Hall next Saturday. Then after Christmas, the Shockers could be getting even better with the return of senior forward Anton Grady.
At the beginning of the season, there was a thought that Utah might be better offensively with Delon Wright gone and the offense moving through Poeltl. But if Wright’s tendency to control the ball was a negative for offensive movement, it also was the thing that could help carry Utah when the offense isn’t in rhythm. For long stretches of last year, “let Delon do work” was a pretty good plan.
Jakob Poeltl had a good game (11 points, 9 rebounds), but not the dominant performance some expected. Utah is a much better team than the one many saw on Saturday, but the backcourt is definitely missing the presence of Delon Wright in these games against top 50 competition.