Wichita State keeps losing players and winning games. It doesnt make much sense, and it doesnt need to. The Shockers are 11-1 and can enjoy Christmas break with great satisfaction.
If coach Gregg Marshall needed to convince the guys in his locker room they could win short-handed, he did a marvelous job. Any non-believers are clearly converts after Saturdays 59-51 win over Southern Mississippi in front of 9,691 fans at Intrust Bank Arena.
I dont think theres any doubters in there now, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. Were down another guy. We go from nine to eight. They stepped up. Its an amazing group.
WSU, already missing three injured starters, lost reserve forward Jake White to back spasms minutes before the game. He left warm-ups and later returned, in uniform, to watch from the bench.
That left eight healthy players and the Shockers needed every one of them to fight off physical, yet small, Southern Mississippi (8-4). WSU trailed 28-17 after a miserable offensive first half and trailed by 12 early in the second half. After Southern Miss responded to one rally with its own burst, the Shockers trailed 47-40 with 8:01 to play.
Seven points looked closer to 70 in a game with lots of defense and no style points.
WSU, however, disregarded the first 30 minutes and found ways to beat the press and the zone defense. It outscored the Eagles 19-4 in the final 8:01 and 10-0 in the final 3:22 after trailing 51-49.
Energy got us going, WSU guard Malcolm Armstead said. We locked in a little more defensively. A couple players made shots and it gave us a little more energy.
In a game that should be celebrated for defense, the offensive highlights will stand out. Demetric Williams led WSU with 17 points. Nick Wiggins added 12 and Cleanthony Early 11. WSU shot 38 percent in the first half and 50 percent in the second half.
Williams signaled the drama to come with his three from the corner, beating the shot-clock buzzer, to cut the Southern Miss lead to 36-32. He beat the shot clock again, this time with a long two-pointer, to keep WSU within 47-43.
Thats when WSUs offense really picked up. The Shockers loosened up Southern Mississippis defensive grip on the game by throwing over the press for layups and throwing over the zone for open shots and lobs. The Eagles dont play anybody taller than 6-foot-6 and it showed late in the game. WSU grabbed eight offensive rebounds and scored nine second-chance points in the second half, 16 total in the lane.
Were a very under-sized, inexperienced team, Southern Mississippi coach Donnie Tyndalll said. Our lack of size, especially the second half, their bigs kind of wore us down.
Chadrack Lufiles three-point play gave them a 49-48 lead with 3:44 to play. Wiggins followed in his own miss to tie it 51-all after a Neil Watson three. Then Wiggins struck again, hammering in a high-flying tip dunk for a 53-51 lead.
Wiggins dunk yanked any reluctant fans to their feet and they likely stayed upright the rest of the way.
Nick parachuted out of the upper concourse for that dunk, Marshall said.
Then the Shockers put it away at the foul line.
Ehimen Orukpe, after grabbing a rebound, made two foul shots for a 55-51 lead with 41 seconds to play. Early made two more for a 57-51 lead and a layup by Williams wrapped up the victory
WSU held Southern Miss to 18 of 50 shooting (36 percent). Jerrold Brooks led the Golden Eagles with 18 points.
Whites absence started the game on a sour note. On the court, WSUs problems started when point guard Malcolm Armstead exited with his second foul with seven minutes to play in the first half. The Shockers managed three points the rest of half, slumping from a 14-all tie to a 28-17 halftime disadvantage.
Southern Miss led 21-15 when a nightmare stretch sunk the Shockers. It started with Williams turnover, continued through two missed dunks by Early (both on lob passes), a charge by Fred VanVleet (wiping away a basket) and two more turnovers. After Earlys second dunk bounced away, Brooks made a three to give Southern Miss a 26-16 lead and Marshall tore off his jacket.
WSU shot 5 of 22 in the first half, 1 of 8 from three-point range, and committed 13 turnovers. WSU grabbed six offensive rebounds, and didnt score after any of them. Early missed all seven of his shots and no Shocker made more than one. Williams and Nick Wiggins each scored five points.