What WSU basketball fans need to know about Shockers’ 3-0 start after Friends win

Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita State men’s basketball team is headed to Myrtle Beach with a perfect 3-0 record following a 95-65 win over Friends University at Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Here is what WSU fans need to know about the latest victory by the Shockers.

1. Shockers snap out of their 3-point funk

If there was one aspect of WSU’s offense needing some momentum entering the team’s first game away from Koch Arena, it was the shooting beyond the arc.

The Shockers were shooting 26.9% (7 of 26) on 3-pointers and only shooting 13 per game in their first two wins of the season.

WSU found its mark from deep on Sunday, as the Shockers exceeded their season total in made 3-pointers with a 10-for-23 performance beyond the arc against Friends. Before the main rotation players exited the game, WSU was 10-for-16 beyond the arc.

“It always feels good to see 3s go in,” said WSU junior sharpshooter Colby Rogers, who scored a game-high 18 points with four 3-pointers. “We practice them and the coaches tell us to shoot 3s. We put a lot of time in the gym. We’ve got to trust the process and the work that we’ve done and keep shooting with confidence. We finally caught fire and hopefully we can put off of it.”

Other Shockers to connect from deep included Dalen Ridgnal, who came off the bench to drill three 3-pointers in the first half, while Xavier Bell, Kenny Pohto and Isaac Abidde all joined in on the fun with made 3-pointers.

WSU has shot below 34% on 3-pointers as a team for five straight seasons, a trend that first-year head coach Paul Mills wants to buck.

“I think you pay more attention to shot profile than you do whether or not if they’re going in,” Mills said.

“We tell them the shots that we’re looking for and the shots we’re not. I think the players are very aware that paint-touch 3s translate well to efficiency and no-paint-touch 3s where the ball hasn’t seen the paint via a pass or a post touch or somebody getting in there and playing off two feet, those aren’t. We come in and show them shot selection, what’s bad and what isn’t. We’re very clear on the criteria, so I think they have a better idea of what works from an efficiency standpoint simply because of the numbers we throw in front of them.”

2. Ridgnal and Abidde bring the energy

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon for the Shockers for the first eight minutes of the game, as they were tied at 17 points apiece with the local NAIA program.

Enter super subs Dalen Ridgnal and Isaac Abidde, who both continued their strong starts to the season on Sunday.

Spearheaded by their bench unit, the Shockers rattled off 18 consecutive points to snap out of their slumber. Ridgnal and Abidde combined for 24 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half, which helped WSU take a 50-28 lead into halftime.

Ridgnal was particularly impressive, making all four of his field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, while grabbing a team-high six rebounds in the first half. Abidde added a triple of his own and finished on a pair of baskets at the rim.

Ridgnal finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Abidde finished with 12 points and 3 rebounds.

3. Shockers expand their playing rotation

Paul Mills’ bench only went two deep in Thursday’s win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, a 7-man rotation that the coach clearly hopes to expand with a 3-game-in-4-days stretch approaching in Myrtle Beach.

The top seven players handled their business on Sunday, which allowed Mills to empty his bench for the final eight minutes of the second half.

True freshman Joy Ighovodja capitalized the most on his extended playing time, as he finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds in 12 minutes.

After not playing last game, UTSA graduate transfer Jacob Germany contributed 7 points and 5 rebounds with a steal.

Even WSU’s pair of walk-ons, Basehor-Linwood graduate Trevor McBride and Kapaun Mt. Carmel graduate Henry Thengvall, saw extended action to close out the game.

WSU’s other true freshman, Yanis Bamba, did not play in the game, which seems to indicate Mills plans on redshirting the 6-foot-5 guard from Quebec, Canada.

Shocker star of the game

The game changed when Dalen Ridgnal was on the floor, which earns him the nod here. Even with no production in the second half, Ridgnal exploded for 16 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting and six rebounds in the first half with the Shockers out-scoring Friends by 19 points in his 10-plus minutes.

Colby Rogers drained four 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 18 points, while Xavier Bell added 15 points and 4 assists and Quincy Ballard had 7 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. All were worthy candidates, but none swung the momentum as much as Ridgnal.

The game turned when…

Sunday’s result was never in much doubt, but Friends had opened up a 14-9 lead in the opening six minutes. That changed when Ridgnal entered the game, as the 6-foot-6 graduate transfer from Missouri State drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and made five straight free throws in a 4-minute span.

Ridgnal scored all 16 of his points during a 26-3 run by the Shockers midway through the first half to create enough separation to put the game away.

What’s next for Wichita State basketball

The Shockers will have three days off before playing again in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, an ESPN tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina. WSU will play the host school at 3:30 p.m. Thursday with the game broadcast on ESPNU.

The Shockers will play either Furman or Liberty on Friday, then have an off day before playing their third and final game in the tournament on Sunday.