BOSSIER CITY, La. — Instead of wondering about a game that slipped away, Wichita State is celebrating one it took from LSU in the final 30 seconds.
WSU center Garrett Stutz swished a three-pointer with 7.3 seconds to play to lift the Shockers over LSU 70-69 on Saturday in the CenturyTel Center. Stutz, who made two three-pointers in the first nine games, caught a pass from Toure Murry on the wing and made the winner without hesitation.
“I didn’t think he was going to pass it to me, so I started running in for the rebound,” Stutz said. “When I saw him turn his head, I saw he wasn’t going to look me off this time. I had my feet set and in rhythm. It was a good shot.”
Maybe a great shot as far as the momentum turn in the season. WSU (8-2) led by 17 points in the first half and 14 at halftime. A loss, as coach Gregg Marshall admitted, courts disaster.
“It would have been a terrible way to lose,” he said. “We dodged a bullet.”
WSU’s defense took LSU (7-4) apart in the first half, holding the Tigers to eight baskets. LSU recovered quickly in the second half with Ralston Turner scoring all 21 of his points. The Tigers pushed and pushed before taking a 66-63 lead with 1:16 to play. They led 68-64 with 36 seconds to play when WSU’s David Kyles made a guarded three with 26 seconds to play.
LSU’s Andre Stringer missed the first of two free throws with 22 seconds remaining. That gave Murry the choice of going for the tie or the win. He drove into the lane, looking for an open route to the basket. When a defender helped off Stutz, Murry passed out and went for the win.
The fact that his target was a 7-foot center instead of a more traditional outside shooter didn’t bother him. Murry sees Stutz shoot in practice.
“I have a lot of faith in Stutz to shoot the three,” Murry said. “He made a big-time three.”
Then Murry finished off the win with by poking the ball away from Stringer. Murry grabbed the loose ball and heaved it toward the basket as time ran out.
With that, the Shockers celebrated instead of lumping LSU with a November loss to Connecticut. They can focus on a strong defensive first half and their poise in the final seconds.
“We knew they were going to make a run, we just had to withstand it,” Kyles said. “That’s one thing we’re still learning how to do _ close out games.”
WSU only needs to look at the defensive effort in the first half as a manual. The Shockers pressed, forcing LSU to waste away the 35-second shot clock cross half court. Then the Shockers kept the Tigers dribbling past the three-point line and forced them into difficult shots. The Tigers made eight baskets in the first half, missing 27 shots.
“We didn’t play real well the first half just in terms of overall execution,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said.
WSU led 18-14 before LSU missed eight straight shots and nine of 10. A basket by Aaron Ellis and a three-pointer by David Kyles put the Shockers up 23-14 and started a 12-3 run. J.T. Durley’s three-point play gave WSU a 30-17 lead.
Two more stops and turnover helped WSU go up 37-20 on two free throws by Toure Murry with 1:17 remaining in the half.
Murry took on guard Stringer, LSU’s leading scorer, and held him to 3-of-10 shooting in the first half. A rash of fouls and turnovers helped LSU get back in the game in the second half. WSU committed four fouls in the first 56 seconds of the half and six by the 17:35 mark. A charging call on Durley and a travel by Murry wiped out baskets.
LSU made three three-pointers to cut WSU’s lead to 37-33 three minutes into the half. From then on, the Tigers stayed close.
Durley, Murry and Kyles each scored 13 points for WSU. Stutz added 12 in 12 minutes.