It took Oklahoma State about three minutes to deflate Wichita State’s air of perfection at Intrust Bank Arena.
Wichita State entered Saturday’s game unbeaten in six games at the downtown arena after winning the last two by 29 and 17 points. Oklahoma State held the Shockers to one point in the game’s first three minutes to build a nine-point lead and extend that to as many as 18 in the first half.
The next 37 minutes served as either a book on how to rattle the Shockers — and not many opponents can do what the Cowboys do — or as one of those hard lessons a team must endure on its way to success. It’s up to the Shockers to determine what happens next after Saturday’s 93-76 loss.
“We had some exposure tonight,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Obviously I have a lot more work to do than I planned.”
The Cowboys, in front of sellout crowd of 15,004, ended WSU’s 42-game streak of non-conference home wins, five of those at Intrust Bank Arena. WSU lost to a non-conference opponent in Wichita for the first time since 2011, when VCU won at Koch Arena on its way to the Final Four.
Cold and snow didn’t keep many fans home. WSU (9-3) gave them little reason to exert their voices on the game. OSU (9-2) did to the Shockers what they do to so many teams —made them look hesitant, uncomfortable and confused. They trailed 49-33 at halftime and failed to make a serious rally.
“We come in and we think it’s our house,” OSU guard Jawun Evans said. “That’s how we take it this year. Confident.”
Much of that confidence flows from Evans, who controls a game in many of the same ways former Shocker Fred VanVleet did. For the first time this season, from start to finish, the Shockers looked rudderless and bereft of options to make good things happen. In losses to Louisville and Michigan State, they rallied after falling behind.
On Saturday, WSU never found a way to keep bad moments from piling up. OSU’s pressure defense ruined WSU’s offensive sets and the Shocker guards failed to make enough plays to get the offense going. Daishon Smith, Landry Shamet, Conner Frankamp and Austin Reaves combined to score 18 points on 4-of-20 shooting.
Any progress the Shockers made quickly evaporated when they gave up a dunk after a turnover, surrendered and offensive rebound or watched the Cowboys break the press to score a corner three.
“They’ve got a tough style of play,” WSU forward Zach Brown said. “But at the end of the day, that’s not going to make or break games. There’s a lot more things that we need to get better at and improve on if we want to beat teams like that.”
Darral Willis led the Shockers with 24 points and 13 rebounds, scoring 14 of those points at the foul line. Markis McDuffie added 14. WSU shot 37 percent from the field and missed 14 of 17 three-pointers.
“Mental toughness, extra effort — that’s something we didn’t show too much of today, which is sad to say,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of guys who, I would say, just didn’t bring it like Darral brought it today.”
Marshall approved of the efforts of Willis, Brown and, perhaps, McDuffie. Beyond that, he found most of his regular rotation lacking in poise and hustle.
“It’s the things we pride ourselves in that we weren’t very good at — defense, toughness, playing harder than the other team,” Marshall said. “Those things didn’t happen.”
Willis made 5 of 7 shots and grabbed nine offensive rebounds.
“I wouldn’t say nobody gave effort,” Willis said. “They tried. They just took us out of a lot of our stuff. We’ll bounce back.”
Evans tortured the Shockers operating off ball screens to score 22 points and hand out four assists. Jeffrey Carroll made 8 of 10 shots and scored 22 points. The Cowboys made 14 of 28 three-pointers.
OSU led 10-1 and the plays from those first three minutes repeated over and over again. Evans scored six of those points and passed to Carroll for a three-pointer.
“Juwan got us off and running,” OSU coach Brad Underwood said. “He put a lot of pressure on the defense.”
For WSU, Shamet and McDuffie missed layups and the offense never regained its flow or swagger. Underwood said he feared WSU center Shaq Morris scoring in the lane. Fouls and the OSU defense, which disrupted passing lanes and timing, limited to Morris to four points in 16 minutes.
The Shockers committed 10 first-half turnovers, most in the halfcourt on careless drives into thickets of defenders. It made 7 of 21 shots, 1 of 6 from three-point range. The Shockers missed layups throughout the first half, rushed a few shots and rarely looked comfortable on offense.
“They converted their layups, knocked down their threes, got a great start and that was just the beginning,” Marshall said.
Free throws kept WSU marginally afloat in the first half. The Shockers made 18 of 24 and outscored OSU by seven points. The Cowboys dominated every other spot on the floor. They out-rebounded WSU 21-12 and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. They made 6 of 11 three-pointers and punctured WSU’s proud defense with 51.6-percent shooting.
The Shockers made their best run late in the half to cut OSU’s lead to 38-29. That roll ended quickly and the Cowboys responded with a 6-0 run. Brandon Averette’s basket started the run. After a missed three by Conner Frankamp, Carroll scored to extend OSU’s lead to 42-29. After McDuffie walked, the Cowboys sliced through the press for a dunk by Lucas N’Guessan.
OSU finished the half on an 11-4 run to lead 49-33.
The second half offered brief hope, followed by crushing three-pointers from the Cowboys.
Free throws by Shaq Morris cut the lead to 52-39. Leyton Hammonds made a three. After a steal and layup by Brown, Hammonds made another three. Frankamp missed a layup and the Cowboys rushed to the other end for a three by Carroll and a 61-41 lead.
A three-turnover sequence soon after turned the game into a full-blown rout. Reaves drove the lane and spun in the air to throw the ball away. Frankamp lost control of the ball while dribbling near midcourt, leading to an Evans layup. A walking call on McDuffie led to another OSU basket and a 69-46 lead.