The first conference installment of “Havoc in the Heartland” since 1996 proved to be a thriller.
Tulsa had a last-second three-pointer that could have forced overtime, but Sterling Taplin couldn’t connect on his seventh three-pointer and the nation’s longest road winning streak survived as No. 5 Wichita State won 72-69 on Saturday night. WSU improved to 15-2 overall and 5-0 in the American Athletic Conference, while Tulsa (10-8, 3-3) lost its third straight conference game.
Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp each delivered vital three-pointers down the stretch and led WSU in scoring with 16 points each, while Markis McDuffie added 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench. WSU won despite shooting 41 percent to Tulsa’s 45.8 percent, thanks to a 42-30 rebounding advantage.
Taplin scored a career-high 26 points, as he became the latest in a growing list of opposing players to have scored at least 25 points on WSU’s defense. Taplin shot 10 of 17 from the floor, including 6-of-10 on three-pointers.
It was a wild final three minutes, as WSU’s seven-point lead shrunk to 68-66 as Taplin scored five straight. Frankamp hit what seemed like a dagger three-pointer in the corner — and even turned around to staredown the Tulsa faithful — but former WSU player Corey Henderson answered with a three-pointer of his own to cut the lead back to 71-69 with 58 seconds left.
Frankamp missed a three-pointer on WSU’s next possession and Tulsa called timeout with 24 seconds left and ran a play for Henderson that produced an open look that rimmed in and out before Rashard Kelly collected the rebound and shuttled it to Shamet.
Shamet left the door open by making just one of two free throws with eight seconds left. WSU coach Gregg Marshall had WSU foul before Tulsa could attempt a game-tying three-pointer, a strategy that nearly backfired when Taplin missed the free throw with four seconds left and Junior Etou grabbed the miss and passed it back to Taplin for a potential game-tying three-pointer. But the shot missed and WSU survived.
Tulsa showed impressive resolve for a team fresh off a 33-point loss to Houston. WSU went for the knockout punch with a 9-2 run out of halftime (after a 16-2 run to close the first half) to build an 11-point lead, 45-34.
But the three-point line saved the Golden Hurricane, as they made 12 three-pointers and shot 46.2 percent. Tulsa sliced WSU’s 11-point lead down to two points thanks to three straight makes from beyond the arc from Corey Henderson, Taplin and Etou.
Shamet had the response for WSU, canning back-to-back threes and Frankamp added a jumper of his own to push WSU’s lead back to 55-45 with 12:01 remaining.
For the second time in three days, WSU had a lackadaisical start on the road.
Tulsa controlled the game’s first 12 minutes, as it made six of its first nine three-pointers and slowed WSU’s offense down by bouncing between zone and man defense. The end result was the Golden Hurricane taking a 30-20 lead with 7:52 remaining, the first double-digit WSU has faced in seven games since playing Oklahoma on Dec. 16.
But the Shockers reeled off an 8-0 run in less than 90 seconds, as Shamet and Austin Reaves connected on back-to-back three-pointers and Darral Willis scored on a put-back to force Tulsa coach Frank Haith to burn a timeout.
That didn’t stop the run, as McDuffie tied the score at 30 and Rauno Nurger gave WSU its first lead, at 32-30, since the opening minute, with two free throws. WSU outscored Tulsa 16-2 in the final 7:21 of the half to take a 36-32 lead into halftime.