Darius Carter didn’t need to be told his first half of basketball stunk. He is a senior who understands what Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall demands. Marshall told him anyway. The family-friendly word to sum it up — soft.
“Coach cussed me out, and I was getting on myself,” Carter said. “I knew. He helped reiterate that, for sure. I felt like I was kind of playing tired, sleepy in the first half. I just needed to wake up and play hard.”
Carter woke up in the second half. So did a lot of his teammates and No. 11 WSU rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat Detroit 77-68 on Satuday at Calihan Hall.
WSU’s first half was merely acceptable and it led 35-31. Detroit (6-4) started the second half on a 12-2 run, Juwan Howard Jr. made shots from Canada and the Titans built their lead to 54-44. Calihan Hall, an 8,295-seat barn built in 1952, became a factor, even around half full. The tiny student section behind the basket chanted the name of Ron Baker’s girlfriend, chanted an obsecenity at the referees and the Shockers looked more uncomfortable than normal.
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Then the Shockers (7-1) started pressing. Carter started scoring and rebounding. The tone of the game shifted and when Tekele Cotton made a three —after his deflection while pressing — WSU led 63-60 and never trailed again.
“It didn’t look good midway through the second half, then our guys exerted some pressure defense that kind of stemmed the tide,” Marshall said. “I don’t know how many turnovers we forced … but it was a handful. When our guys get down like that, they have a renewed sense of urgency.”
WSU forced 13 turnovers for the game, six in the second half. That isn’t a huge number, but the Shockers made almost all of them count by scoring 26 points off turnovers. The press also disrupted Detroit’s offense and kept the ball away from Howard, who scored 27 points, 17 in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come at us with their pressure,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. “Then they became the aggressor. Once they became the aggressor, we got back on our heels and that gave them the momentum to push through.”
Ron Baker scored 19 points, 11 in the second half. Carter scored four in the first half and had trouble scoring around the rim against Detroit’s active athletes. In the second half, he made 5 of 6 shots and scored 14 points to finish with 18. After grabbing three rebounds in the first half, he finished with 11 for his second straight double-double. His first three-point attempt as a Shocker swished through the net and cut Detroit’s lead to 60-59.
“I was feeding off of my bad first half,” Carter said.
After Cotton’s three-pointer gave WSU the lead, rebounding began to wear down Detroit. Carter followed in a miss for a 65-62 lead. Baker’s three, on a pass from Fred VanVleet after he drew defenders and passed across court, put the Shockers up 68-62. Carter followed in another for a 70-63 lead.
“Carter was a huge factor,” McCallum said. “Their ability to rebound second shots took the wind out of our sails.”
Baker and VanVleet closed the game making 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:18.
“It hurts pretty bad,” Howard said. “You don’t get these opportunities a lot in a year and we let this go.”
Howard did his best to give Detroit its first win over a ranked team since 2002. He made a long three-pointer over Carter to give the Titans a 38-37 lead. He made another long three for a 46-44 lead and followed with another three to make it 49-44. Then he pump-faked past Rashard Kelly for a short jumper to make it 51-44. Brandan Kearney’s three-pointer made the margin 10 points, 54-44.
Howard scored 13 of Detroit’s 23 points in the first nine minutes of the second half. After that, he scored four more as Baker and the press worked to keep the ball away from him.
“We weren’t stopping them there for awhile in the second half, so we had to change up our defenses,” Baker said. “We started pressuring them and they hit some shots. But we also got some steals that converted into baskets and that can make a nice swing in the game.”