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Wichita, Kan. • Since returning to the court, Fred VanVleet has gotten plenty of praise for turning Wichita State's fortunes around after a 2-4 start.
But after the Shockers' 67-50 win over No. 25 Utah, he wasn't willing to take the credit.
"I think tonight was more about our bigs, and the job they did on [Jakob] Poeltl," he said. "He's a hell of a player, and our guys did a good job to make it hard on him."
Utah's sophomore center barely got looks at the rim.
The Shockers threw a handful of bodies at Poeltl, including Shaquille Morris, Rauno Nurger and Tom Wamukota. And through a combination of physicality, denying entry passes and staying out of foul trouble, Wichita State took away an edge the Utes typically lean on.
Poeltl came into the game averaging over 21 points and 10 rebounds. On Saturday, he had season-low 11 points and nine rebounds, but not because his shot was off he managed only five field-goal attempts in the game.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was beaming afterward, reflecting on his defense.
"[The Utes] do a wonderful job getting him the ball," Marshall said. "Our guys were working hard to limit his touches he only had five field-goal attempts just by being fresh and being energized and not letting the ball in so easy."
Wichita's pressure forced Utah's offense 25 feet out from the basket and beyond. Poeltl was often forced out of the low post on offense, and the Utes had trouble early getting shots off before the shot clock. Pick and rolls resulted in turnovers as often as they resulted in shots.
Poeltl has been much better this year getting to the foul line, entering the game ranking No. 16 in free-throw attempts. But even that wasn't there often against the Shockers: The big man shot only six free throws, missing half of them.
Several other times, he appeared to draw contact, but went down and lost the ball. When he came up looking for a whistle, often officials shook their heads seemingly content to let the game get physical.
Wichita State didn't have a problem with that. Utah's high-scoring front court was held to only 12 points in the paint, to the Shockers' 28. Utah won the rebounding battle, 31-27, but it was hardly relevant thanks to the turnover disparity.
"They're physical at each position, all the way through the lineup," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "There's not a skinny guy out there. Somebody's doing a nice job in the weight room with them, and putting them in the mindset that they're going to guard."
Shockers control the paint
R Wichita State outscores the Utes 28-12 in the paint.
• Jakob Poeltl has only 5 FG attempts for the game.
• Kyle Kuzma finishes 0 for 4 from the field with 6 rebounds.