Let's start with the missed free throw. Clevin Hannah's shot bounced off the back of the rim with 3:30 remaining in Wichita State's game against Illinois State on Wednesday night, ending a streak that was certain to end sometime but still shocked a sellout crowd at Koch Arena.
"But they showed me a little love,'' said Hannah, the nation's best free-throw shooter whose 43 consecutive makes is a Wichita State record.
What is even more surprising than Hannah's one miss is that he followed up with another. No one knew what to think, except Hannah.
"I just knew I missed two free throws,'' he said. "I knew the streak was going to end sooner or later. I didn't expect to miss two in a row, but it happens.''
The missed free throws at crunch time came as WSU was being pushed by the Redbirds. With help from four Hannah free throws in the final 1:04 ("I started a new streak," he said), the Shockers won 74-66 before a quiet sellout crowd of 10,506.
"Quiet" and "sellout" don't go together, but everybody in Shocker Land has been confused about this team since it lost on the road Saturday at Drake. It wasn't necessarily the loss that disturbed us, although the Shockers had beaten a miserable-looking Drake by 23 at Koch Arena three weeks earlier. The Bulldogs, though, have played well the past couple of weeks.
What was bothersome about the Drake loss is that the Shockers played and acted as if they were distracted, even a little perturbed that they had to show up and put in 40 minutes.
With so much on the line in that game, how could Wichita State not play with purpose and passion?
"Personally, I was mad because I shot bad in that game from the field,'' said Hannah, who in reality was one of the only spirited Shockers in the Drake game. "I know my teammates were really mad about that game, the coaches — everybody. We've had a lot of bad moods here all week but we bounced back tonight and made a step toward what we're trying to do.''
Wichita State, unbeaten at home, has the look of an NCAA Tournament team when it plays inside Koch Arena. Whether it's that they're buoyed by the crowd or simply enjoy sleeping in their own beds, the difference between the home Shockers and the road Shockers has been glaring of late.
Hannah, the team's only senior, is one of those who has learned how much extra it can take to pull out a win in a strange surrounding.
"We're trying to win a Valley championship and then go on and do well in the postseason tournament and things like that,'' he said. "Against Drake, we just didn't come out ready to play mentally.''
Which is maddening, given this team's glossy 18-4 record and invincibility at home.
The Shockers bounced back from the Drake game by shooting 50 percent from the field against Illinois State, outrebounding the Redbirds and hitting 9 of 18 three-point shots.
Illinois State, by the way, thumped Wichita State in Normal 72-57 in both teams' Valley debut in late December. It illustrates, once again, what a difference home vs. road can make.
But it shouldn't make as big a difference as it has made for the Shockers, who were able to win Valley road games against Missouri State and Indiana State. And they have four more chances, including back-to-back games on the road against Southern Illinois (Sunday) and Northern Iowa (next Wednesday).
Hannah knows his importance when it comes to helping teammates understand how much more it takes to win away from home.
He went one-on-three against Illinois State seniors Osiris Eldridge, Dinma Odiakosa and Lloyd Phillips on Wednesday.
"Clevin was up for the challenge tonight,'' Marshall said. "He was very good. He just kind of ran the game. The ball was in his hands and he was changing directions, spinning, making runners, making threes. I think he took one bad shot, but that's about the only fault I could find.''
Phillips gave Hannah all he could handle, too. The Illinois State point guard matched Hannah's 22 points and had eight assists. But he also had five turnovers, three more than Hannah, who was 7 of 12 from the floor and had five assists.
"I like Phillips,'' Hannah said. "He's a good player and we had a good little battle going on. It's good to see two little guys go at it.''
Phillips said he always looks forward to the challenge of playing against Hannah.
"Yeah, I love playing against Wichita,'' Phillips said. "You always get a good matchup at the point and I guess the better guy won tonight. Hannah's always been one of those guys where I look at the calendar and say to myself that I can't wait to play against him. Because he's one of those guys — you make your name off guys like that. But he was better than me tonight. I had just as many points, but we lost. And I always feel like that if one guy scores 50 and the other scores zero and wins the game, then the guy who scores zero won the match-up.''
Hannah wins most of his matchups. He's having a great senior season, and one of the best seasons ever for a Wichita State point guard.
Now come two road games, which is where the Shockers — and Hannah — can cement their legacy. No more Drakes, please.