This is what happens to most teams on the road in college basketball. It feels odd for Wichita State, because the Shockers haven’t been like most teams for several seasons.
Home teams generally win around 70 percent of their games, according to RPIratings.com, and even average teams win 60 percent. No. 8 WSU lost 69-68 at No. 25 Utah in overtime Wednesday, and after it could look back with the regrets common for other teams over the past season-plus.
A play here and a play there and things are different. During the 35-game regular-season win streak, the Shockers made those plays. WSU didn’t play many close games in 2013-14 and when it did, it won. It won at Saint Louis and Alabama by five points. It survived an overtime test at Missouri State to win 72-69.
On Wednesday, the Shockers compiled a long list of potential game-deciding plays that they failed to make. It happens, especially on the road and especially against good teams, but it hadn’t happened to the Shockers since 2013.
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“We came up short tonight, one play,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “That’s exactly what Coach (Gregg) Marshall told us at the end of the game — it was going to come down to one possession.”
Baker missed a dunk, off a beauty bounce pass from Darius Carter, early in the second half. With 2:30 to play in regulation, WSU’s Fred VanVleet poked a ball loose from a Utah guard. Instead of it bouncing to a teammate, the play ended with Carter fouling out. Shaq Morris missed a shot at the rim, defended by 7-footer Jakob Poeltl, in the final 45 seconds of overtime.
Then, most painful, VanVleet missed the front end of one-and-one with 7.5 seconds to play and the Shockers trailing 69-68. Evan Wessel missed a follow shot after Morris spun around Poeltl to get in position to keep the ball alive.
And that was it.
The nation’s longest regular-season win streak ended at 35. So did a nation’s best 12-game win streak on the road and a 19-game streak in regular-season non-conference games. The Shockers (4-1) play Saint Louis (5-2) on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena.
“It’s going to be a little tough,” Wessel said. “We’re going to have to stomach this one and watch the film and see what we can learn from it. We’re going to have to get right back to work to see what we can do to start another streak.”
The loss obscured WSU’s furious rally in the final minutes of regulation. WSU trailed by 11 with 5:19 to play and nine with 3:23 remaining. A layup by VanVleet started the rally and cut Utah’s lead to 58-51. His three-pointer made the margin four points. Utah failed to pass the ball inbound against WSU’s pressure and Tekele Cotton’s three made it 58-57 with 58 seconds remaining.
“I wasn't expecting it, but I knew they weren't going to go away,” Utah guard Brandon Taylor said. “They aren't No. 8 in the country for nothing. It was incredible how that team kept coming back after we kept going on runs and runs.”
After Cotton stole the inbounds pass and saved the ball from caroming out of bounds, VanVleet made another three to give WSU a 60-58 lead with 37 seconds remaining.
“We were down (eight) when I started using our pressure defense,” Marshall said. “Maybe I should have used it more in overtime.”
The Shockers started the game with a 10-0 lead that featured two three-pointers from Cotton, a player Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said his defense backed off from a bit because of a jammed finger on his shooting hand. Cotton entered the game 1 of 7 from three-point range.
“I think we needed to pick our poison in terms of who we wanted to beat us,” Krystkowiak said. “And we made up our mind that VanVleet and Baker were guys that we wanted to identify and we were going to gap Cotton a little bit, being a penetrator.”
Utah survived that opening flurry and WSU’s lead didn’t grow larger than eight points the rest of the half.
“It was a physical deal where we were knocked around a little bit,” Krystkowiak said. “Some of our young kids didn’t quite grasp the concept of how physical it was going to be. Wichita State basically, in the opening round of our boxing match, punched us right in the mouth and it was a little bit of a wake-up call.”