LAHAINA, Hawaii — Wichita State’s Graham Hatch might try snorkeling. Garrett Stutz wants to spend time with six family members.
The Shockers can partake in all of Hawaii’s splendors with a clear conscience and a smile after Wednesday’s 70-58 win over Virginia in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational.
“The coaches would not have been too happy if we would have lost that one,” Stutz said. “I don’t think any of the guys on the team would have been happy.”
The Shockers (3-1) didn’t take the easy way to vacation time. They trailed 20-4 in the first half, threatening to ruin the entire week. WSU settled for jump shots against Virginia’s man-to-man defense. It turned the ball over five straight times, baffled by Virginia’s double teams. The Cavaliers (3-3) made their first six shots and eight of their first 10.
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“They were making shots, and we weren't making them make tough shots,” WSU’s J.T. Durley said.
Ugly. If Monday’s loss to UConn took away the magic from the Maui trip, a loss to Virginia would have ruined it.
“I'm not sure we would have sequestered them in their room, but it wouldn’t have been enjoyable,” coach Gregg Marshall said.
The Shockers, however, refused to panic.
They sped up the tempo to get Virginia out of its comfort zone. The Cavaliers cooled off. WSU exploited Virginia’s double-teaming the post and found open shooters. With J.T. Durley making three three-pointers, the Shockers ended the half on a 31-11 run and led 35-31.
“We weren't aggressive at all,” WSU’s Toure Murry said. “I came in and tried to penetrate and kick it out. Be aggressive.”
The comeback started when Virginia guard Joe Harris was called for an intentional foul. Harris hit Ben Smith in the mouth with his shoulder while Smith pressured him after an inbound pass. Smith made one free throws to cut the lead to 20-9. Then Stutz passed out of the double team to find Durley for a three to make it an eight-point margin.
“I told them they can’t call that on Joe, he’s the nicest kid in the building,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “That was a big shift.”
Given that opening, the Shockers poured it on. Murry’s layup made it 20-14. Durley scored again from three-point range. Murry made four straight free throws to pull WSU within 24-21. WSU’s half-court trap caused a turnover that led to a corner three for Joe Ragland and a tie game.
“We never gave up, because we knew what we capable of,” WSU senior Graham Hatch said. “We had to pick it up on defense. We’re capable of pressuring really hard on teams, and we were able to do that.”
A dunk by David Kyles, after Murry’s steal, gave WSU the lead for good. Kyles finished the half with a buzzer-beating three for a 35-31 lead.
“They got stronger and we faded,” Bennett said. “Their depth and experience showed.”
The Shockers pulled away midway through the second half. Aaron Ellis’s layup gave them a 51-43 lead. Ellis passed to Stutz for a layup, near the end of the shot clock, for a 10-point lead. Demetric Williams blew by everybody for a coast-to-coast layup to make it 57-45. Hatch’s long three gave WSU a 12-point lead with 5:41 to play and Virginia didn’t get within 10 points again.
The Shockers finished strong, thanks to its depth. Eight Shockers played between 15 and 28 minutes. Four Virginia starters played 33 or more minutes and WSU’s reserves outscored the Cavaliers 28-2.
“We’re deep,” Marshall said. “We're athletic. We're long. It does wear on you, and it is taxing, especially for young guards.”
Durley, 1 of 9 on three-pointers entering the game, made all four and led WSU with 17 points. Murry added 13.
Mike Scott led Virginia with 16 points and 10 rebounds.