BOZICH | Angry Wichita State tired of hearing about Kentucky
The Wichita State basketball players say they need to play "angry" to win -- and the Shockers say they're tired of hearing about Kentucky, their opponent Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) – Playing basketball against Wichita State is like boxing Joe Frazier, driving against Richard Petty or batting against Nolan Ryan.
The Shockers believe the most direct route to victory is popping you directly in your kisser.
There will be forearms. There will be slaps. There will be collisions.
Gregg Marshall’s team will initiate many. Kentucky coach John Calipari has sometimes wondered if his team had enough Frazier, Petty or Ryan in its DNA. That will not work against Wichita State Sunday, starting around 2:40 p.m. in Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse.
“I’ve watched four tapes of theirs,” Calipari said. “I can just tell you, they viciously go after offensive rebounds. If you don’t rebound in the game, you don’t have a chance to beat them.
“You’ve got an unbelievable opponent that plays with heart and fight and battles, and you bring your team in, your young team, and say, ‘Let’s see where we are. Let’s see what we are at this point.’ “
The only way Wichita State will ever get a game against Kentucky away from Rupp Arena is to earn one in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers, a 10-seed, earned one by defeating Dayton.
Don’t make the mistake of calling that game an upset. Dayton was seeded seventh. Wichita State was favored. This is a team that is still angry by the 10-seed. This is a team that does not want to hear that one reason the Tournament Selection Committee gave the Shockers that 10 seed is they went 0-3 against opponents that make the NCAA field.
Wichita State (31-4) plays with an edge – and talks with an edge.
Just visit the Shockers’ locker room and point your recording device in any direction.
“I’m very tired of hearing about Kentucky this and Kentucky that,” said Markis McDuffie, a forward for Wichita State. “That’s why I can’t wait for this game.”
Tired? Why tired? Everybody talks about Kentucky. Happens every year.
“If you hear the same thing a bunch of times, you’re going to get annoyed, right?” McDuffie said. “We get a chance to play them, now you guys will see how the outcome will be.”
Landry Shamet, one of Wichita’s starting guards, is not as outspoken as McDuffie. But he is nearly as confident.
“When you’re playing a team like that, that might be looked at as the top dog, you want to punch first,” Shamet said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Even Marshall, the Wichita coach, talked like a guy ready for a street fight. Kentucky has three players projected as first-round picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Wichita State does not have any.
But Marshall said that what he does have is three inside players that the coach plans to run at Bam Adebayo, Kentucky’s freshman center.
“We have a three-headed monster at the five,” Marshall said. “So we’re going to keep those guys fresh. Bam, I’m sure he’s in great shape, but he’s going to need to be in great shape tomorrow.”
Adebayo feasted on the glass when the Wildcat defeated Northern Kentucky Friday night. He collected 18 rebounds, a career high. The vibe in the Wichita locker room Saturday was that Adebayo would not collect 18 rebounds against the Shockers.
“I’ve got to go out there and play hard and stick with my teammates,” Adebayo said. “They’ve got confidence and we’ve got high confidence, too.”
Kentucky is more talented. Of that, I have little doubt. Kentucky is considerably more ferocious on the offensive end of the court. They have two guys – guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox – who can take over any game they play.
Kentucky will make more pretty plays. Kentucky, favored by 4 1/2, should win.
But this game will not be about pretty plays. This game will be about withstanding the forearms, the slaps and the collisions at the rim.
“We have a mindset that’s unstoppable,” said Shaq Morris, one of Wichita’s three centers.
“Every time we step on the court we have to be the more physical and aggressive team. That’s part of playing angry, just wanting it more.”
“I’m looking forward to it just because I know how good they are,” Calipari said. “It’s going to be a hard game and I want to see how my young guys respond.”
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