EVANSVILLE, Ind. — No. 23 Wichita State often struggles with turnovers for stretches, sometimes an entire half. Then the Shockers get it under control and run their offense effectively.
On Sunday, the turnovers started and never stopped. The Shockers passed to the wrong jersey, jumped in the air and threw the ball away, lost the ball while dribbling and charged into defenders. A season-high 22 turnovers helped Evansville score 27 of its points in a 71-67 win on Sunday at the Ford Center.
When the Shockers handled the ball, they scored — 54.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.
“We were sloppy with the ball,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Twenty-two turnovers is the story with us.”
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak — all without three starters — for the Shockers (15-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley Conference). Evansville (11-6, 4-1) snapped a five-game losing streak to WSU.
Marshall called Evansville’s defense “ratty,” a compliment to its aggressiveness and ball-hawking. The Aces recorded 10 steals and made every move tough, especially for WSU’s guards. They refused to let the Shockers move the ball easily and often forced them deep into the shot clock. Starting guards Malcolm Armstead, Demetric Williams and Tekele Cotton combined for 13 turnovers.
“We just weren’t strong with the ball,” Williams said. “You’ve got to be able to go in there and take a couple bumps and be able to hold on to the ball.”
The Aces stuck with their man-to-man defense and seemed to get a hand in almost every passing lane. They forced 11 turnovers in the first half, scoring 15 points, and 11 more in the second.
“We just try to play hard-nosed defense, simple as that,” Aces guard Troy Taylor said. “Nothing special to it.”
Armstead led WSU with 21 points, making 8 of 11 shots. Cleanthony Early added 16 points, 14 in the second half, in his follow-up game after scoring 39 in Wednesday’s win over SIU. Colt Ryan led the Aces with 24 points.
WSU took two shots to tie late in the game. Armstead’s runner hit the side of the backboard with WSU down 67-65. Jake White’s three-pointer missed with the Shockers trailing 70-67.
Marshall didn’t find fault with either, although he would not have blamed Armstead for shooting a three when his defender went under a screen near the top of the key. Instead, Armstead drove the side of the lane and tried to bank in a shot over defenders.
“I wish he would have pulled,” Marshall said. “I thought it was the time to shoot the three for the one-point lead.”
After Armstead’s miss, Early fouled out, removing a good option for the three-pointer to come. Jordan Jahr made two fouls shots for a 69-65 lead with 31.9 seconds to play. Armstead caught the Aces asleep and passed to White for a layup five seconds later. Ryan restored a three-point lead by making the first of two free throws with 20 seconds to play.
After a timeout, the Shockers got White open for a three on the wing. Evansville’s Lewis Jones rebounded the miss with four seconds to play and made one free throw after a foul.
“I thought it was good,” Marshall said of White’s shot.
The Shockers needed to hustle just to get that close. Their press flustered Evansville late in the game and helped them rally. WSU trailed 66-60 before Armstead’s layup and a three by Early cut the lead to one point with 45 seconds to play.
The Shockers grabbed a slice of momentum with a 50-45 lead and the ball after a charging call on Ryan. They had Nick Wiggins rising for a two-handed dunk. Then Evansville’s Egidijus Mockevicius came from across the lane and cleanly blocked the ball away. The Aces recovered and Ned Cox scored to start an 8-2 run for a 53-52 lead.
“Huge play,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. “They had us on our heels.”