Wichita State rides second-half wave, plus other impressions from Monday tourneys

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Updated: November 20, 2017

1:22 AM ET

Forgive Wichita State if it came out too relaxed.

There it was in Maui, a 19-point favorite against a California team that had already lost to UC Riverside and was taken to the wire by Cal Poly. This wasn’t a game that figured to test the sixth-ranked Shockers, who are coming off a 31-win season and entered the year with their highest preseason ranking (No. 7) in over 30 years.

But 24 minutes into their first game in paradise, it felt nothing of the sort.

Cal — the same team that trailed Wofford at halftime last week — pulled out to an 18-point lead, handing the Shockers their second-largest deficit in the past two seasons. It was the type of sequence that leads to the comically bad early-season overreactions that are so much fun to revisit in March.

Things like:

Wichita only wins games because of its schedule. Overrated!

Final Four? Wichita State? Please!

Try searching “Wichita” + “overrated” on Twitter for the good stuff.

To be fair, though, for a while it did look like the Shockers would be the first top-10 team to lose to a team from outside the top 10. But as teams of their caliber tend to do, the Shockers woke up, and Coach Gregg Marshall didn’t even burn a timeout before the deficit was cut to eight. The Shockers used a suffocating full-court press to win going away, 92-82.

Reading too much into a November win against Cal in the quarterfinals of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational would be a mistake, but it was still an impressive display of resiliency for a team that has the ability to be one of the best in the country.

Here are a few other takeaways as college basketball tournaments opened up all over the country:

UCLA’s lack of depth will be an issue

On the same night LaVar Ball, the father of UCLA freshman LiAngelo Ball, was interviewed on CNN about his unlikely feud with President Donald Trump, the Bruins’ lack of depth due to the indefinite suspensions of their freshman trio of Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and Ball was on display in Kansas City.

This is a team that expected to be able to go 11-deep and push the tempo, but now has to be mindful of how much energy it can exert to stay fresh for 40 minutes. The Bruins didn’t do a good job closing out on the 3-point line and Creighton — which also used eight players — capitalized. The Bluejays didn’t shoot overwhelmingly well from outside (11-of-29), but it was enough to provide the difference.

The 100-89 win gave Creighton back-to-back wins against ranked teams for the first time in school history, and its 100 points were the second most it has ever scored against a ranked opponent.

Kentucky’s best performance this year was a loss … and that’s fine

After Kentucky dropped a close game to Kansas in the Champions Classic last week, it felt like we saw everything we needed to confirm the Wildcats would again be a factor in March.

Everything else in the nonconference portion of the schedule is about getting the team to jell.

Struggle to beat Utah Valley? Oh well.

Close game with Vermont? No worries.

70-62 but were outscored by eight in the second half. Again, it amounted to a televised practice.

Keep an eye on Texas AM

Welcome back, Robert Williams.

After serving his two-game suspension to open the season, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year picked up where he left off a year ago, when he burst onto the scene out of relative obscurity to become a potential first-round NBA draft pick. He scored 11 points, grabbed 11 boards and had three blocks in 24 minutes off the bench in a 72-55 win against Oklahoma State.

Without Williams, the Aggies opened the season with a convincing victory over then-No. 11 West Virginia, and with him back in the lineup they looked like a team capable of competing for the SEC title.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/119930/wichita-state-rides-a-second-half-wave-and-other-impressions-from-around-the-country