Take­aways from WSU win in­clude McDuffie’s big game

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY TAYLOR EL­DRIDGE

Wi­chita State de­liv­ered an 83-80 vic­tory over Providence on Fri­day in the Vet­er­ans Clas­sic. Providence had re­ceived some votes in bal­lot­ing for The As­so­ci­ated Press’ pre­sea­son Top 25.

Af­ter los­ing to Louisiana Tech by 11, the first time WSU had lost a home opener since 1995, the Shock­ers re­sponded in a big way on a na­tional stage. Se­nior Markis McDuffie scored a ca­reer-high 32 points.

Here are some take­aways from The Ea­gle’s Taylor El­dridge.

1. ‘I LET MY GAME DO THE TALK­ING’

Yes, Tues­day’s per­for­mance against Louisiana Tech was be­low aver­age from the Shock­ers.

But for play­ers on a young team still try­ing to find them­selves in their first game, there were a few too many grum­blings in­side Koch Arena. Af­ter­ward, many fans took to so­cial me­dia to crit­i­cize the play of se­niors Markis McDuffie and Sa­ma­jae Haynes-Jones.

Both re­sponded by play­ing stand­out games on Fri­day: McDuffie went for 32 and Haynes-Jones added 15 points and a ca­reer-high eight as­sists to lead the Shock­ers past Providence.

“It’s amaz­ing just read­ing and hear­ing and keeping my ears to the ground how many peo­ple were so neg­a­tive about Markis and so neg­a­tive about Sa­ma­jae be­cause they didn’t shoot the ball or play par­tic­u­larly well in the first game of their se­nior year,” Wi­chita State coach

Gregg Mar­shall said. “I can’t re­ally tell you what my sen­ti­ments are to­ward those peo­ple right now.”

Some­times it’s hard for play­ers to block out all out­side noise. They some­times see neg­a­tive things writ­ten about them on so­cial me­dia. They’re hu­man and those things can hurt.

In­stead of dwelling on the neg­a­tive, McDuffie kept a clear head and played per­haps the best game of his Shock­ers ca­reer on Fri­day.

“I thought I stayed poised and let my game do the talk­ing,” McDuffie said.

2. ‘I FEEL LIKE I HAVE A SHOCKER TEAM BACK’

Fri­day’s thrilling win should erase the mem­ory of Tues­day’s sea­son-open­ing loss.

WSU avoided its first 0-2 start since the 1990-91 sea­son by com­pet­ing at the level Mar­shall is ac­cus­tomed to. Af­ter shaky per­for­mances in the ex­hi­bi­tion and sea­son opener, WSU re­turned to its roots against Providence.

“I feel like I have a Shocker team back,” Mar­shall said.

Mar­shall said many of WSU’s new­com­ers have likely “been told how great they are their en­tire lives.” They came to WSU with as­pi­ra­tions of start­ing, of star­ring, of play­ing in the NBA some­day. Then Tues­day’s loss snapped them out of that dream state.

They came to the re­al­iza­tion they had to work even harder at WSU. The play­ers re­sponded with two great prac­tices, Mar­shall said, and their ef­forts car­ried over to Fri­day’s game. Fi­nally, Mar­shall could be proud

two more years of club con­trol. But, as a crude in­stru­ment, the com­par­i­son works.

Back then, the Roy­als sent Greinke to Mil­wau­kee for a pack­age head­lined by Lorenzo Cain and Al­cides Es­co­bar. They also re­ceived Jake Odorizzi, who be­came a key piece in the trade that brought James Shields and Wade Davis. Noth­ing in base­ball is lin­ear, but it is highly un­likely the Roy­als could have won the 2015 World Se­ries with­out that spe­cific trade.

But get­ting there was a hot mess. Greinke had made his de­sire for a trade known, so the Roy­als cy­cled through many con­ver­sa­tions. They were close with a few, most no­tably the Na­tion­als, who agreed on a pack­age head­lined by Jor­dan Zimmerman and Derek Nor­ris. The deal was de­pen­dent on the Na­tion­als sign­ing Greinke to an ex­ten­sion. In­stead, he in­voked his no-trade clause.

The Braves, Red Sox, Rays, Yan­kees and Dodgers are po­ten­tial fits for the Roy­als and Mer­ri­field in dif­fer­ent ways.

But at least at the mo­ment, a sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cle to a deal is the Roy­als’ in­ter­nal be­lief that time is on their side be­cause ...

No. 2: The Roy­als don’t want to go back­ward

The 2018 sea­son ended with a mod­icum of prom­ise but in many ways was a dis­as­ter. They lost 104 games, tied for sec­ond­most in fran­chise his­tory, and suf­fered their largest one-year aver­age at­ten­dance drop ever. All of this with an open­ing day pay­roll that pushed $130 mil­lion, and an an­ti­quated TV con­tract that (thank­fully) has just one year re­main­ing.

Fi­nan­cially, it was a dis­as­ter.

So, trad­ing Mer­ri­field would not save money, but it mean a worse team. Pub­licly, Moore has been push­ing the mes­sage that he will no longer use the word “re­build.” Trad­ing Mer­ri­field would be a full re­buke.

Fi­nan­cially, then, it could be an­other dis­as­ter.

Moore cares deeply about what base­ball means to fans. As much as any­thing else, this is his guid­ing prin­ci­ple, for bet­ter or worse.

Alex Gor­don’s con­tract will be up af­ter 2019. Sal Perez is a proud All-Star. Danny Duffy loves the or­ga­ni­za­tion in a rare and deep way. Play­ers un­der­stand

would

the busi­ness side of base­ball. Heck, they usu­ally ben­e­fit from it.

No. 3: The Roy­als don’t yet know what they’ll need

Mer­ri­field’s talent and ver­sa­til­ity will al­ways be valu­able, for in­stance, but the Roy­als’ need for him at sec­ond base will be in­flu­enced by Lopez’s de­vel­op­ment.

In that way, hold­ing onto Mer­ri­field serves sev­eral pur­poses si­mul­ta­ne­ously: pro­jects hope and con­fi­dence to play­ers and fans, helps main­tain cul­ture of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the club­house, cre­ates the best pos­si­ble team for 2019, pro­vides time to see what might be needed in a few years, and re­tains the abil­ity to trade a pre­sum­ably still valu­able as­set next sum­mer or win­ter.

This is who Moore’s Roy­als have al­ways been.

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