Under-the-radar frontcourts collide in NCAA second round


Freshman Emmitt Holt dribbles down the lane during IU's practice Thursday at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. Ben Mikesell and Ben Mikesell

OMAHA, Neb. — Wichita State forward Shaquille Morris said understands why people are talking about guard play heading into his team’s NCAA Tournament matchup with IU.

But don’t forget about him, he added.

“The guard play might be a big thing, and it is, but that’s just half the game,” Morris said. “Us bigs have gotta work, too.”

The two frontcourts will collide in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. Each unit has mostly taken a back seat behind stellar guard play, but is confident it can change the tone of the game.

Wichita State led the Missouri Valley Conference with a +5.2 rebounding margin despite ranking No. 243 in the country in effective height. The Shockers proved to be an effective on the glass despite leading rebounder Darius Carter ranking just No. 10 in the conference with 5.3 rebounds per game.

Cater, a 6-foot-7 forward, said the individual numbers aren’t as important because all of his teammates — regardless of position — are comfortable rebounding.

Four different Shockers average more than 4.0 rebounds per game. Two of those are guards.

“We try to use that to our advantage,” Carter said. “We know Indiana is going to be trying to do the same.”

There’s truth to Carter’s prediction. The Hoosiers (20-13) also rely on their guards to rebound the ball, but to a lesser extent than the Shockers (28-4).

Two of IU’s top five rebounders are guards, but forwards Troy Williams, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Emmitt Holt still do the bulk of the work on the glass.

They’ll be the ones charged with limiting Carter, a senior who said he’s even more motivated to make an NCAA Tournament run in his final year.

“They’ve got some very good guys down there,” Holt said. “They’re tough to match because they play very physical. We’ve just got to come out ready and do what coach has told us.”

Holt’s built a bit of momentum for himself in the postseason with Mosquera-Perea slowed down by another knee injury.

In Mosquera-Perea’s absence against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament, Holt played a career-high 25 minutes, grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds and had six points. He said that performance gave him even more confidence, despite ultimately being in a losing effort.

Mosquera-Perea said he feels good and expects to play, but IU Coach Tom Crean hinted that Holt may have earned a starting spot.

“He will definitely be a factor for us if we’re going to have success in this tournament,” Crean said. “No question.”

Morris said Holt, along with the other IU forwards, are a difficult matchup because of their speed. He said he hasn’t played against another team with quite the versatility of IU’s big men.

“Their bigs are guard-like, so we’ve just got to get down and guard,” he said. “It’s going to be different, I guess that’s the best way to say it. But I’m happy to go against them.”

While Wichita State may not have played against a team quite like IU, a few different Hoosiers compared the Shockers’ physicality to that of Michigan State and Purdue. That comparison may not be promising for IU, a team that went 0-4 against those two teams this year.

Wichita State has prided itself in “playing angry.” Freshman guard Max Hoetzel said the Shockers have a certain swagger about them, taking pride in an aggressive, physical playing style.

“It’s going to be a fun matchup,” Morris said. “We’re going to fight and do the dirty work. Whether it be rebounding or opening lanes. Whatever we’ve got to do to make the guards better and get the win.”

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