No. 16 Baylor didn’t want to find out what life would be like without Terry Maston, and certainly didn’t prefer to face No. 8 Wichita State without the talented senior forward.
But with Maston out at least a month after breaking his right hand against Xavier, the Bears will be down to seven healthy scholarship players when they host the powerful Shockers at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor senior center Jo Lual-Acuil compared losing Maston to having to replace second-team All-America forward Johnathan Motley who decided to forgo his senior season to enter the 2017 NBA draft this summer.
“It was kind of like the Mot question, what we had to do,” Lual-Acuil said. “I feel like there’s nothing that one person can really do to make up for him (Maston). So as far as the team goes, we all collectively have to make up for what we miss rebounding-wise. I think that’s the biggest thing. Offensively, everybody can chip in and make up for that.”
Maston gave the Bears a big boost off the bench by averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting a team-high 63.3 percent from the field. In Tuesday’s 76-63 loss to No. 21 Xavier, Maston scored 15 first-half points before he went out early in the second half.
Despite the loss of Maston, guard King McClure is confident the Bears can build on their 5-1 record.
“T.J.’s obviously a really great player, and we just have to pick up our load,” McClure said. “Some people have to score more, some people have to rebound more. But I just feel like everyone’s going to have to step up and produce a little bit more, because we’re missing quite a bit with T.J. But I think we’ll be fine and we’ll be able to handle it.”
The Shockers (5-1) have a great basketball tradition and have thrived under 11th-year head coach Gregg Marshall. The Shockers have reached the last six NCAA tournaments, including an appearance in the 2013 Final Four.
Wichita State has won at least 30 games in four of the last five seasons, but is switching from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference this season. Whether or not the Bears win, playing Wichita State will help their RPI.
“In the basketball realm of things, everybody knows that Wichita State might not be in a Power 5 conference but they definitely play Power 5 basketball,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “RPI-wise it’s a great game. Especially when they were in the Valley, you could pencil in 30 games a year. Now they’re moving up in a conference that will be a little tougher for them. But still they’re going to win a lot of games and get you better as a team.”
The Shockers feature six seniors, including 6-8 center Shaquille Morris who is averaging 13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. The 7-0 Lual-Acuil is looking forward to matching up against one of the country’s premier big men.
“He’s obviously a load, he’s a very skilled guy,” Lual-Acuil said. “But kind of like what the coaches say in our locker room, no defensive assignment is meant for one guy. We collectively guard, and when we lose, Baylor loses. It’s not Shaq drops 30 on Jo and Baylor lost. The biggest thing is just helping each other out on defense and doing everything collectively.”
Morris has plenty of talented players surrounding him, including sophomore guard Landry Shamet who is averaging a team-high 14.2 points and has nailed 12 of 24 3-pointers. Senior guard Conner Frankamp is averaging 9.8 points and 3.3 assists and senior forward Rashard Kelly is averaging six points and nine rebounds.
Wichita State has a strong bench as senior forward Darral Willis is averaging 11.5 points and seven rebounds while senior guard Samajae Haynes-Jones is averaging 10.2 points and three assists. Marshall has been mentioned for many college basketball job openings but has stayed at Wichita State.
“He’s an outstanding coach,” Drew said. “X’s and O’s-wise they’re very sound and their guys always really play hard and compete. I know when coaches look at taking jobs, the first thing is ‘Can you win your home games?’ They’ve had great crowd support. They go there and it’s a tough place to beat them on their court. They have some tradition, and he’s been able to take advantage of that and continually bring in good players and build off that.”
The Bears hope to improve on their 42.9 3-point percentage in the road loss to Xavier. Baylor shot just 31.3 percent from 3-point range and was outrebounded by a 38-28 margin.
The Bears hope to play much better before a large crowd at the Ferrell Center in a premier nonconference home game.
“You don’t have to worry about motivating players, so that’s the good thing,” Drew said. “It’s just all about execution and what your game is and following that. You don’t have to worry about your players knowing who your opponents are. They know how good they are, they know how good the team is. They’ve seen highlights and people talking about them.”