Why it matters: Coach Gene Smithson won his first game at Wichita State and it foreshadowed the thrills to come during his tenure. WSU ran off 15 straight points against DePaul at Levitt Arena to win 95-92. The Shockers trailed 92-80 with under three minutes to play before rallying against the Blue Demons, who advanced to the 1979 Final Four.
Date: Dec. 9, 1978
Short version: WSU’s Cheese Johnson started the comeback with a three-point play with 2:34 remaining to make it 92-83. Bob Trogele’s long jumper cut the lead to seven points a few second later. After a DePaul timeout, the Blue Demons turned the ball over and Trogele scored again. Johnson’s putback, after another DePaul turnover, pulled the Shockers within three points. Trogele stole a pass and Johnson scored again to make it 92-91 – WSU scored 11 points in 1:20. After two missed foul shots, WSU’s Lawrence Howell made a 15-foot jumper with 45 seconds to play for a 93-92 lead. DePaul’s Clyde Bradshaw missed a jumper with 25 seconds to play. After a DePaul foul, Johnson tipped in a miss for the final score.
More details: Johnson led WSU with 27 points, also grabbing 13 rebounds. DePaul freshman Mark Aguirre scored 39 points, making 17 of 22 points. Trogele added a career-high 22 points. . .DePaul grabbed the momentum in the second half with a five-point possession. WSU’s Steve Kalocinski fouled Jim Mitchem in an attempt to block his shot near the basket. He also received a technical foul for hanging on the rim. After the Blue Demons made three free throws, Mitchem scored for a 75-65 lead. . . The Shockers won after starting the season with losses to Iowa, New Mexico and San Jose State. Smithson coached eight seasons at WSU (1978-1986) and went 155-81.
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Oddly enough: The Shockers had to share the hoops spotlight in the state that night. Kansas lost to Kentucky 67-66 when the Jayhawks were hit with a technical foul with three second to play for calling timeout when they didn’t have any left. Kyle Macy’s free throw gave Kentucky the win in Lexington. In Salina, Kansas Newman’s Leroy Leep made a 20-footer with two seconds to play to beat Marymount, ending a 106-game home win streak.
Quotable: “You can write that this what MTXE (Mental Toughness, Xtra Effort) really is. We never gave up.” – Johnson
Quotable II: “We had the game won and gave it away. A guy gets 39 points and we lose.” – DePaul coach Ray Meyer