It’s still not without its flaws, but the Wichita State men’s basketball team may have found a way to get Morris Udeze back on track.
After Udeze finished last season with a solid finish, scoring a career-high 22 points in an NCAA tournament loss to Drake, the 6-foot-8 junior center was stuck in a rut for the first five games. of this season where he had more turnovers than field goals.
Udeze looked closest to his form last season in WSU’s 61-55 road win at Missouri last Friday, where he tied his season high with 15 points on 6 of 8 shots and took five. rebounds. He could have had more too, if not for five misses in eight attempts from the foul line.
“It feels good, man,” Udeze said after the fact, clearly relieved. “It’s just a game at the end of the day, so I try to remember to have fun with it and hold my head up. You are not going to have a good game every time.
“I know I’ve been in a bit of a seizure lately so it feels good to get back to what I’m doing.”
So what has changed in the Missouri game? Not only did Udeze do himself a favor by getting back to basics and what made him good last season – like those big drop steps to complete post moves near the rim and wait at the spot. dunk a dump pass to slam – but WSU coach Isaac Brown and his team were also creative in finding new ways to use top scorer Tyson Etienne and his shooting gravity to manipulate defenses and free Udeze.
The Shockers (5-1) hope these means are sustainable and will find out quickly when they travel for their second straight road game, this being a step up in the competition when WSU takes on Oklahoma State (6-1) at Gallagher-Iba Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a game available to stream on ESPN +.
“I’m really happy with the way Mo played,” Brown said after the win in Missouri. “I knew he was going to push him forward. He’s one of the best players in our league scoring with his back to the basket and we have to do a better job of trying to give him the ball early in the game and get him started early. But tonight he was great.
WSU switched to a mostly prevalent pick-and-roll attack and through five games Udeze never looked very comfortable in his new role. There wasn’t much room for him to come down the middle of the lane and when he received those passes from the WSU guards on the small roller, Udeze’s hands and grips made him fail. in these tight spaces, which resulted in many escapes in a variety of turnovers.
During the Missouri game, the WSU coaching staff may have found the tweak that will pave the way for Udeze and give him all the room he needs to finish with some dunks.
The critical change involved removing Etienne from the ball as Udeze’s pick-and-roll partner and using the star player as a mobile decoy. The WSU knew that Missouri (and all other opponents) would ask the defender who was guarding Etienne to always stay attached and never leave the sniper, which is why the goal of the WSU became to position Etienne on the terrain where his defender would normally be responsible for providing assistance to stop Udeze running down the lane.
With shooters spotted in every corner, WSU would start the game with Etienne under the basket, Udeze at the free throw line with point guard Craig Porter bringing the ball back. As soon as Udeze comes out of the three-point line and Porter makes his move to one side, Etienne dashes to the other side of the lane and sprints to the top of the key.
This put the Missouri defense in a bind because the center had to help onscreen to contain Porter’s drive, as the keeper still followed Porter. Meanwhile, Etienne’s defender sprints out of the way and up the sideline to follow Etienne. It would take a locked-in defense for one of the corner defenders to spin in time to take Udeze and Missouri weren’t up to the challenge, giving up the open reels to Udeze three times in the last six minutes.
WSU even ran a ride of the same action early in the game, using Etienne as a decoy screen on the ball for Porter, then looping him around a Udeze back screen to clear the corner. It’s all a smokescreen trying to get the defense behind the real game, which happens in front of Udeze setting the ball screen for Porter. Sure enough, the Missouri defense was out of the system and Porter had an open path to the basket with defender Etienne unable to prevent the penetration which led to a Joe Pleasant corner kick-out three but could easily have been a lay. -in for Porter.
Pieces like these show how the WSU coaching staff get creative in using Etienne’s shooting gravity to the advantage of his teammates, charging defenses to protect him from the face to the perimeter. .
“I felt like we goaltenders were just more aggressive getting out of those ball screens and helping out (center),” Porter said. “We know people are going to turn Tyson away the rest of the year. It’s like that for the preseason player of the year. So we need to make sure we find other people with open eyes.
Another promising development early in the game was how active Udeze was as a screener.
Udeze appeared to be more diligent than usual to make sure he was holding the screen, instead of sliding it around and letting the defender pass. He also didn’t let the ball stick when passed to him on the perimeter, as Udeze was decisive in turning the ball to the other side of the floor and restarting the filtering process.
With Missouri starting the game with 7-3, 300-pound Jordan Wilmore down center, Udeze used his quickness around the perimeter not to score, but to prepare the others to score. Because Mizzou had to play with Wilmore, Udeze gave the WSU an advantage by slamming the defense every time he put up a solid screen and then rolled towards the basket.
In the first game of the match, Wilmore was late to step up, Udeze buried Etienne’s defender in a screen and the WSU star was free to take his first shot of the match. In the second play, Udeze again placed a good screen to give Porter an advantage towards the basket, then rolled to force the defenseman on the weak Missouri side to pinch and remove the pass. That screen and roll opened the pass back to Dexter Dennis on the wing, which he burned to immediately give WSU a 6-0 lead. A Udeze screen set up a third three-point pointer shortly thereafter.
Udeze hadn’t even attempted a shot, but had already made a huge impression on the game. WSU hopes to be able to replicate this in the future.
“We need the production of Mo in the field,” Etienne said. “It’s a big part of our attack. He’s one of our more experienced guys and someone we’ll need buckets and rebounds this season. I was happy to see him play the way he did (against Missouri). It’s a confidence booster, that’s for sure. I’m happy for him. He made the necessary adjustments and I’m proud of him for that.