With a nearly brand new look to the Wichita State men’s basketball team, Head Coach Gregg Marshall knew there would be some growing pains.
Tuesday night’s performance against Catawba, a Division II school, was worse than Marshall anticipated for his new team.
“We were a little worse than I thought we would be honestly,” Marshall said. “We had some guys that were kind of frozen in the moment, not playing with their hair on fire, but we had a couple guys step up.”
Although the Shockers won by 11, the game could have easily been a different outcome.
The entire first half was a back-and-forth battle with five lead changes and two ties. By the end of the first half, Wichita State only led by three and was shooting 39 percent.
At halftime, Marshall made it a point that the second half had to be significantly different.
“I told them ‘You’re in a dog fight, you have 20 minutes to not be national story,'” Marshall said. “You have to find a way, you gotta just gut it out… you have to be gutty and tough.”
The Shockers’ mentality shifted and started dominating the game offensively, winning the game 75-64.
One of the players to step up and make an immediate impact was freshman Jamarius Burton.
Burton finished with 16 points and five rebounds, and only missed one shot the entire night.
Despite being a newcomer to the team and playing in Koch Arena, Burton stayed focused on keeping his composure.
“My biggest focus coming out was to not even focus on the crowd. I just tried to stay locked in and pay attention to my leaders and Coach Marshall,” Burton said. “The speed [of the game] wasn’t the problem, I just tried to stay sharp mentally I felt like if I just go out there and keep my composure.”
Marshall said he wasn’t surprised with Burton’s performance because of his maturity on and off the court.
“He just has a very mature way about him, not just in his basketball game,” Marshall said. “Jamarius is an old soul…he’s really methodical and mature and doesn’t get sped up and handles situations well.”
In addition to Burton’s offensive performance, both seniors Samajae Haynes-Jones and Markis McDuffie scored in double-digits.
Haynes-Jones was the leading scorer with 19 points and McDuffie finished with 14.
Being a senior and a key leader on the team, McDuffie said he had a hard time in the first half finding how to execute his role on the court.
“I was trying to figure out how I was going to help this team. I know I have a load to carry and everybody expects me to be that leader,” McDuffie said. “I just thought in the first half I tired to do too much in terms of carrying the load when I didn’t really have to…that’s just all learning.”
McDuffie said that in his role as a leader he has to focus on keeping the team positive, even if the game didn’t go as well as they had wished.
“I just told [the team] to ‘Keep your head up, we got a W,'” McDuffie said. “With these guys, you always have to bring positive energy to them, they can get down real fast.”
“They’re not used to this kind of adversity, so you always have to stay positive and keep their head up but always get on on them when they need to get right and turn it up.”
Wichita State will play their first game of the season on Nov. 6 against Louisiana Tech.
Haynes-Jones has a similar approach to McDuffie on keeping spirits high heading into the nest game.
“Mentally, just stay positive, this is going to be a long season,” Haynes-Jones said. “We’re going to go into film, watch film and learn every day and go out there and play and not get down on ourselves. Play the way we always play: play angry.”