“[I] salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.”
Those words from West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr. before his Mountaineers faced 36-0 and No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 during the 2015 NCAA Tournament became the talk of the entire tournament.
The result: Kentucky led 44-18 at the half and won by 39 points to advance to the Elite Eight.
After the 39-point embarrassment from one of the best teams in recent memory, all Miles Jr. could say was afterwards was simply, “They played great.”
The Wichita State Shockers had much more to say than just a simple thought of ending Kentucky’s season on Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis during the team’s media availability.
“I am very tired of hearing Kentucky this and Kentucky that,” Shockers forward Markis McDuffie said. “That’s why I can’t wait for this game tomorrow. If you hear the same thing a bunch of times, you’re gonna get annoyed, right? Now that we get the chance to play them, now you guys will see what the outcome will be.”
The headline-marker from Saturday was Darral Willis Jr., one of Wichita State’s forwards.
Wichita State forward Darral Willis Jr. said Kentucky is "nothing special" and the Shockers aren't afraid of anyone "on this planet." pic.twitter.com/oYkE9eqEXU— Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnLEX18) March 18, 2017
Willis Jr. also said that Bam Adebayo’s stellar rebounding is going to get shut down. When he was asked about Adebayo’s 18-rebound performance against Northern Kentucky on Friday in the tournament opener for the ‘Cats, Willis Jr. said, “That’s going to get shut down.”
Well there’s a lot to digest here.
- First off, Wichita State’s two seniors on their current roster didn’t even play the last time the Shockers and Wildcats met in that absolute classic from the Round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
- Secondly, Wichita State has their coach’s mentality. Gregg Marshall’s motto during WSU’s rise to prominence in recent years has been, “Play angry.”
- Thirdly, there’s talking ... and then there’s walking.
The last bullet point is the important one. Kentucky didn’t bite at any chance at a response to the words from the Shockers on Saturday.
“I’m just gonna go out there and play hard,” Adebayo said when asked about Willis Jr.’s comments on shutting him down.
“I can’t say nothing to that. I’m just gonna go out there and play hard. Just instead of talking to them talking to your teammates, you know ... just shying away from all that negativity and just talking to your teammates and staying positive with them.”
Bam Adebayo could’ve easily fired back with a response to Willis Jr. or Marshall for saying that he’ll need to be in “great shape” against his “three-headed monster” of WSU’s front court. He spoke on working with teammates and coach to get a win.
Isaiah Briscoe could’ve mentioned something about playing against McDuffie back in New Jersey when they were both in high school. All that he said (and could remember) is that he’s a “good player.”
Two years ago, West Virginia poked the bear and got absolutely mauled in Cleveland (and then received one final parting gift from Devin Booker).
Wichita State poked the bear.
They may not like the response they’ll get on Sunday.