Twenty years after the Roundhouse Renaissance was completed, Koch Arena is still a formidable venue for college basketball opponents to play.
Just ask Richmond, the latest team to fall victim to the Shockers on their home court following an 80-68 win by Wichita State on the 20th anniversary of Koch Arena’s renovation.
“They have a great home crowd and they’re a great team,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said following Wednesday’s game. “They were a little bit too comfortable tonight from our perspective.”
First-year head coach Paul Mills has made himself right at home in the Roundhouse, as the Shockers have won all five of their home games by double-digits this season. WSU’s 7-1 start under Mills is the best eight-game start to a season under a new head coach in 59 years since Gary Thompson led the Shockers to the same start in 1964.
All five WSU starters scored in double-figures for WSU, which led from start to finish in a thorough victory over its highest-rated opponent by KenPom’s metrics (Richmond entered the night ranked No. 80) in 48 games, dating back to a 72-57 win over SMU (then ranked No. 58) on Feb. 5, 2022.
Since a disjointed offensive performance in the team’s lone loss of the season to Liberty, WSU’s offense has been humming at one of the most efficient rates in the country.
In WSU’s last three games, all double-digit wins, the team’s offense has averaged 82.7 points, shot a combined 49.5% from the field, drastically improved its assist-to-turnover (47 to 25) ratio and pumped out a sparkling 1.20 points per possession.
“I think guys better understand where they need to be and they also understand the spacing that needs to be involved in order to give players room,” Mills said. “The guys hear me say this way too much, but I ask them a lot: ‘What do good players want?’ The answer is space. They don’t need to be squeezed. We have some good (ball handlers), but you’re not able to utilize them if you don’t have space.”
Richmond’s defense had been one of the stingiest in the country at protecting the rim, where opponents shot 46.4%, per Synergy, entering Wednesday. But the Shockers were able to spread the Spiders out, which neutralized their 7-foot shot-blocker in Neal Quinn (18 points) and allowed WSU to finish with 21 field goals at the rim and shoot 72.4% there — both marks were the most allowed by Richmond this season.
WSU turned a competitive game through 25 minutes into a comfortable victory by a simply dominant second half. The Shockers scored 19 times on their first 24 possessions after halftime, which translated to 1.71 points per possession.
“It felt like they were scoring almost every possession,” said Mooney, who wasn’t far off. “It felt like we were getting some good looks, but we just weren’t making them at the same rate as they were making them.”
Colby Rogers and Xavier Bell both bounced back from their first off-games of the season to combine for 36 points. Rogers, who led all scorers with 19 and added a career-high seven rebounds with three assists, three steals and no turnovers, also eclipsed 1,000 career points in the game.
Rogers’ career began at Cal Poly, then continued for one season at Siena before he transferred to WSU in 2022. Following a redshirt season, Rogers is WSU’s leading scorer this season at 16.5 points per game. Only 132 of his 1,017 career points have come at WSU, but the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter appreciated that the milestone occurred at Koch Arena.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it does mean a lot,” Rogers said. “It’s really kudos to my parents and the people who sacrificed for me to be where I’m at today. Coaches, mentors, family members, friends, everybody who has supported me. It’s a nice milestone in college, but hopefully I can build on it and continue to improve.”
In two games since returning from an ankle injury, Harlond Beverly has posted 15 assists with just one turnover in 71 minutes of play. The Miami transfer scored another 13 points on Wednesday to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and a steal, all while playing standout defense on Richmond leading scorer Jordan King.
On the heels of three straight 20-plus scoring outings, King was averaging 20.3 points on 51.8% shooting this season before Wednesday. But his trip to Koch Arena wasn’t as kind, as King finished with 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting while playing all 40 minutes.
“(King) is really good obviously, so with those types of players, you really just got to be in their face the whole game and do your best to make them miss,” Beverly said.
“I know I guarded him, but it was a whole team effort to hold him to 7-for-17.”
WSU led the entire game outside of the first 35 seconds, courtesy of a 16-3 start in the opening minutes that culminated with a thrilling alley-oop play to Isaac Abidde.
Richmond, a veteran team, displayed resilience to battle back to within 33-31 by halftime. The Spiders (4-3) were still just a possession away five minutes into the second half until WSU’s scores started to pile up like snowballs.
There was a stretch where Richmond scored 13 points in a 10-possession span, yet saw its deficit grow from 11 to 18 because the Shockers scored nearly every time down. Kenny Pohto and Quincy Ballard, who combined for 20 points and 15 rebounds, supplied key baskets throughout the evening.
But the run that put the game away with a 10-0 spurt early in the second half, culminating in two straight slick finishes by Beverly in transition, pushed the Shockers’ lead to 56-43 with 12 minutes, 15 seconds remaining. The lead never dipped below 11 the rest of the game.
“We came out and played as a team,” Bell said. “We came in at halftime and recognized and knew what we had to do offensively and defensively to come out with a win. All of us just bought in to each other and came out with the right mindset.”
Richmond, which was picked 11th in the 15-team Atlantic-10 preseason poll, played without starting guard DeLonnie Hunt, who was averaging 9.3 points before injuring his wrist against Colorado. He is expected to miss between six and eight weeks.
WSU swept the home-and-home series with the Spiders, which concluded with Wednesday’s return game at Koch Arena following the Shockers’ 56-53 win at the Robins Center last season. It was the first time the two programs had met on the hardwood.
While WSU has proven its mettle in the Roundhouse, it will now be tested in a true road environment for the first time with a 2 p.m. Sunday game scheduled at Missouri (6-2).
“You probably remember the loss more than you do the wins,” Mills said about WSU’s start. “You expect to win. You work to win. Your team practices to win, so when you win, you’re like, ‘This is what we anticipated.’ So losses kind of stick with you a little bit more. But all of these are growth opportunities, whether you win or whether you lose.
“What I know is every day when we come in here and watch film, I know guys care about getting better. I know guys care about helping the team. That means a lot. When you have guys who have a growth mentality, ‘How do I get better?’ and they practice that way, you realize you’re dealing with a group that’s going to make strides through the course of the year.”