ATLANTA — As much as Wichita State point guard Malcolm Armstead could own his performance in Saturday’s 72-68 loss to Louisville in the national semifinals, he did.
“We accomplished a lot, but when I look back I’ll just think … dang, I went 1 for 10 and my team needed me to score the ball,” said Armstead, a senior. “I’m going to look at that the most. I went out with an ‘L’ and my team did a great job, but I just didn’t support them enough.”
Armstead’s final line was one that may have turned the tide of the game – two points on 1-of-10 shooting with three turnovers in 29 minutes. Armstead had seven assists and two steals but faced constant pressure from Louisville guard Russ Smith.
Armstead entered the game third on Wichita State in scoring at 10.9 points.
“I was just missing shots … a lot of my shots were uncontested, so it wasn’t my night offensively,” Armstead said. “Their pressure had a lot to do with the mistakes I made, you have to give (Louisville) credit.”
Armstead struggled to get in the flow of the offense from the beginning of the game, going 0 for 6 from the field in the first half – including 0 for 3 on three-pointers. He didn’t score any points in the first half and WSU still went into halftime with a 26-25 lead.
“I was able to get the ball to some teammates when I felt the double team,” Armstead said. “And I was still trying to help us defensively.”
Armstead only had one foul in the first half, but picked up his second with 14:01 left in the second half and his third with 8:40 to play and the Shockers leading 53-47.
His fourth foul came with 5:22 to play and Louisville storming back from a double-digit deficit to take a 58-57 lead and put WSU coach Gregg Marshall had to begin subbing Armstead out on defensive possessions.
“I don’t think there was any debate,” Marshall said. “We discussed it, but we have to then try to keep him in as much as we can on offensive possessions. So any time we were subbing offense, defense on dead balls … there were a couple of times we would have loved to have had him in, but we didn’t want him to get his fifth foul with two, three minutes to go.”
Armstead insisted the subbing didn’t throw his rhythm off.
“I don’t think it was a factor for me,” Armstead said. “No excuses for how I played or anything like that. I struggled. It wasn’t just about the fouls.”
Freshman Fred VanVleet subbed in and out with Armstead.
“Good players have bad games, but I don’t necessarily consider it a bad game for (Armstead) because he does so much on the court,” VanVleet said. “He still made some plays for us. He still played great defense like he always does.”
The loss brings an end to Armstead’s college odyssey – he played two years at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, one year at Oregon, paid his own way to school while sitting out last year at Wichita State, and then closed things out by helping lead the Shockers to their first Final Four since 1965.
“This is hard, but it’s over now,” Armstead said. “I’m going to keep grinding, keep working and hopefully play at the next level. We’ve set the stakes high for the guys that are coming back and I hope they can live up to that.”