BOSSIER CITY, La. —Experience and talent, plus good fortune, makes a coach happy in the final minutes of a close game.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, while expressing appropriate regret for blowing a 17-point lead, left the CenturyTel Center in a good mood after WSU's 70-69 win over LSU on Saturday. The Shockers, down 68-64 with 36 seconds to play, made two three-pointers to win. Marshall liked the way the Shockers handled their final possession to produce Garrett Stutz's clincher with 7.3 seconds remaining.
"We didn't panic and force something," Marshall said. "Last year's team, I really believe, would have shot that ball and tried to force something. Hopefully, we've matured beyond those decisions."
The Shockers (8-2) didn't execute perfectly in the final minute. A foul on LSU (7-4) bailed them out of a messy situation with 41 seconds to play, down 66-63. Toure Murry, the team's best free-throw shooter, made one of two. From there, everything went right for the Shockers.
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With WSU down 68-64 and 26 seconds to play, David Kyles made a three-pointer from the wing, ignoring tight defense by LSU's Chris Bass. Kyles asked for ball while the Shockers huddled before LSU's Andre Stringer made two free throws with 10 seconds earlier.
"I was like 'Run a play for me,'" Kyles said. "I'm not scared to take it."
After Stringer made another free throw (and missed one) for a 69-67 LSU lead with 22 seconds to play, WSU needed another good possession. The situation may have reminded Marshall of a 59-56 loss at Northern Iowa, when the Shockers didn't get a good shot in the final seconds.
Saturday, they did.
"We would have shot a quick, bad shot a year or two ago," Kyles said. "It's funny, because we just practiced situations like this. Coach tries to get us to stay poised and execute our plays. There's more time than you think."
WSU showed patience by moving the ball until Murry made it work by driving into the lane. When a defender helped to prevent a move to the rim, he passed out to Stutz for an open three-pointer.
"We showed a little bit more poise when our first option didn't work," Murry said. "We stuck with it and found the best shot instead of forcing up a contested shot."
Stutz's heroics shouldn't overshadow his other contributions. He scored 12 points in 12 minutes and made all four of his shots. He scored eight of those points in the second half, giving the Shockers post scoring when foul trouble forced J.T. Durley to sit. His teammates hopes Saturday's performance is the first step toward more contributions from Stutz. He is showing signs of shaking off a slump by making 10 of 13 shots and averaging 8.7 points in his past three games.
"I was proud of Stutz," Kyles said. "He had a lot of confidence in himself. He was saying 'Give me the ball. They can't guard me.' I know earlier in the year he was struggling a little bit, trying to find his game. I think it will help him."
The Shockers play Tulsa (5-5) on Tuesday at Intrust Bank Arena. It is their final non-conference game before Missouri Valley Conference play starts against Evansville on Dec. 29 at Koch Arena.