TULSA — Wichita State center Chadrack Lufile threw up his fist, the teams signal for Coach, Im gassed and I need a sub. Giving the tired sign requires trust on both sides. The player admits he is tired for the good of the team and the coach agrees to put him back in when he is fresh.
Coach Gregg Marshall ignored Lufile. He had no choice. It was that kind of a game on Wednesday at the Reynolds Center, an all-hands-on-deck effort that required several Shockers to step out of their comfort zone in a 77-54 win over Tulsa.
The 14th-ranked Shockers (5-0) survived foul trouble, injury and a spirited effort by the Golden Hurricane (0-3). Sophomore guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet both set career highs with 21 points. Lufile came off the bench to score seven points and grab 10 rebounds. He played 23 minutes, 15 in the second half when he tried to come out and failed.
I gave my fist a lot of times, and Im not ashamed, he said. I was exhausted.
The Shockers played without post Darius Carter, coming off his best game this season. He sat out with a sprained right foot. Marshall could prepare for that. He couldnt prepare for starting center Kadeem Colebys foul trouble. His absence forced the Shockers to play small lineups against a bigger team and kept Lufile running hard during the games crucial moments. Coleby played 14 minutes, only two in the second half, before fouling out. That left Lufile as WSUs lone big man and only option, even when he shot his fist into the air.
I ignored him a couple times, Marshall said. Chadrack and I have that kind of relationship. He ignores me sometimes, too.
It all worked out for the Shockers, thanks to several gritty efforts and the scoring of Baker and VanVleet. Evan Wessel, forced to play power forward against players four and five inches taller, grabbed six rebounds and helped WSU slow Tulsas offense in the second half.
This was a major test, Marshall said. Thats the type second half weve been waiting for. Thats as well as weve played this year, and against a team that was giving us everything they had.
WSU defeated Tulsa for a sixth straight time with a superb effort in the second half. The Shockers made 15 of 28 shots in the second half with Cleanthony Early and Tekele Cotton recovering from sub-par first halves. They cut down Tulsas driving lanes to hold the Hurricane to seven baskets in the second half. Tulsa ruined its upset chances with a horrible night at the foul line. It missed 17 of 30 free throws to continue a season-long nightmare.
I dont know, Tulsa coach Danny Manning said. It is a situation where we just have to step up there and make the shots.
Baker and VanVleet did plenty of that. Baker made 7 of 9 shots, 5 of 7 from three-point range, in 26 minutes. He made guarded threes. He dunked. He made a short jumper after a pump fake sent his defender flying past. VanVleet made 7 of 14 shots and all six of his free throws. He also had six assists in 36 minutes.
(VanVleet) isnt super jet-quick, but he has quick bursts, gets into the paint and makes things happen, Manning said. They have some good players, but he makes them go.
The Shockers pulled away with a 10-0 run midway through the second half. Another 8-0 run gave WSU plenty of breathing room, up 71-53 on a Baker three. Soon after, Tulsa fans started to leave and the Shocker fans took over the noise competition.
WSU enjoyed little post scoring for most of the game. Lufile changed that and helped the Shockers take control in the second half. He completed a three-point play, off a spin and bank shot, for a 47-42 lead with 13:30 remaining, WSUs biggest lead to that point. Tekele Cottons dunk on a missed shot made it 49-44 and set the stage for a bigger run. Baker started it with a short jumper for a 53-48 lead. After a Tulsa miss, VanVleet made two free throws. Cotton sank a baseline jumper for a 57-48 lead. Then VanVleet dribbled the length of the court for a layup and a 59-48 lead, forcing a Tulsa timeout with 8:42 remaining.
After Tulsas Pat Swilling missed two free throws, Lufile tipped in Bakers first miss for a 61-48 lead.
Tulsas shot-blocking and a 2-3 zone defense kept Wichita State out of the lane for most of the first half. The Shockers missed 18 of 28 shots and failed to gain ground at the line by missing five of 13 fouls shots. Baker made three three-pointers and the rest of the team missed 10.
WSU led 25-22 late in the half and couldnt expand that edge. Two free throws by Nick Wiggins and a layup by VanVleet put the Shockers up three points. After a Tulsa turnover, Lufile walked. Tulsas Lew Evans beat Wiggins to a rebound and putback. After VanVleet lost the ball in traffic, Evans free throw tied the game 25-all.
WSUs offense suffered with Baker and Early on the bench for most of the half with two fouls. Baker played eight minutes and scored nine points. Early played 11 minutes and scored three points.
Swilling led Tulsa with 12 points, although it took him 12 shots to get there. WSU held guard Shaquille Harrison to five points, 14 under his average.