|No. 6 Shockers open Maui Invitational against Cal|
No. 6 Wichita State has a measuring-stick opportunity when it heads to Hawaii to battle a challenging field at the Maui Invitational.
The Shockers open tournament play Monday against California.
The field also includes No. 14 Notre Dame, Michigan and Marquette.
Wichita State returns all five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team and has been impressive in easy opening wins over Missouri-Kansas City and College of Charleston. The Shockers won those two games by an average margin of 35 points, but the coaching staff isn't sure the team has put together a complete 40-minute effort.
"We probably played 25 good minutes (against Charleston)," Wichita State assistant Donnie Jones told reporters this week, "but we are not ready to play 40 yet. Most teams aren't this time of year."
Cal, off to a 2-1 start under new coach Wyking Jones, needed a strong second half to pull away from Wofford on Wednesday. Senior forward Marcus Lee and freshman point guard Darius McNeill each had 17 points to pace a balanced Cal offense in a 79-65 win.
Jones said a halftime tweak to the Bears' press helped jumpstart Cal against Wofford. The Bears turned 16 Wofford turnovers into 23 points and outrebounded the Terriers 23-6 in the second half.
"The press is not always about forcing turnovers or getting steals," Jones said in the post-game press conference. "It's about creating energy for us."
Cal has not defeated a top-10 opponent since 2014. Jones said the Bears won't change their approach against the Shockers.
"The same way we prepare for every other game, come in with a game plan, try to dissect what they're strengths and witnesses are and going into the game knowing exactly what we should see," Jones said. "The mindset and the way we do things doesn't change."
Wichita State hopes its non-conference schedule, which includes December games at Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, will prepare the Shockers for their first season in the American Athletic Conference.
After decades in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State elected to join the American this spring. The Shockers have 12 lettermen back from last year's squad, which went 17-1 in the MVC.
"I think it is good that we have challenged ourselves," Wichita state assistant coach Donnie Jones said of the Shockers' non-conference schedule. "It is going to help us get ready for The American, because that conference is really good."
So are the Shockers. All five starters are currently averaging double figures, with versatile big men Shaquille Morris and Darral Willis Jr. combining for 33.5 points and 16 rebounds per game. Wichita State ranks in the top 20 in the nation in points, rebounds and assists per game.
Junior guard Don Coleman leads the Bears. Coleman opened the season with back-to-back 30-point games. He was held to 16 points in the win over Wofford.
The winner of Monday's game will advance to face the Marquette-Virginia Commonwealth winner on Tuesday.