SAN DIEGO — Like almost every other Missouri Valley Conference school, Wichita State will look back on the Mountain West/MVC Challenge and hope it gained by being challenged.
That is the consolation prize.
The Mountain West Conference dominated the second edition of the series 8-1, highlighting it with No. 17 San Diego State's 83-69 win over WSU on Saturday at sold-out Viejas Arena.
The Shockers (5-2) stuck with the Aztecs (8-0) until midway through the second half. San Diego State blew out to a 17-point lead with an impressive display of athletic ability. Instead of a quality win, WSU must be satisfied with a quality learning experience.
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"In the Valley, there's no one that athletic," WSU senior Graham Hatch said. "Us being able to face a team like that, before conference, and play in this kind atmosphere, I think we're going to learn and grow from it."
For the second time this season, WSU is in make-good mode after losing to a high-caliber opponent. San Diego State, which also owns wins over
then-No. 11 Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, gave the Shockers plenty to think about.
"We certainly have a lot of things that we can work on to get better," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "That's a very good basketball team. That's a team that is Sweet 16, Elite Eight-type team if they get the right draw and get a couple breaks. They're dynamite."
* San Diego State's frontcourt dominated WSU's, setting the table for a plus-nine rebounding edge, 15 second-chance points and a 24-point edge in the lane.
Billy White scored 24 points. Kawhi Leonard added 16, 12 rebounds and four steals. Malcolm Thomas pitched in 12 points and four blocks. WSU's starting frontcourt of Hatch, Aaron Ellis and J.T. Durley totaled 19 points and 10 rebounds. Gabe Blair and Garrett Stutz added seven points and eight rebounds off the bench.
"They got around us, they got over us," Marshall said. "We have to figure out a way to get stronger, tougher, rebound the ball better and retrieve the ball better."
* WSU's uncertainty at point guard hurt against a high-caliber opponent.
The Shockers led 47-46 when point guard Joe Ragland was called for charging. Marshall replaced him with Demetric Williams, who committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions. Then starter Toure Murry turned the ball over against the press. That run of four turnovers in five possessions gave the Aztecs the momentum to turn a one-point deficit into a 60-47 lead.
White, a 6-foot-8 senior, scored seven of his points during that run. He assisted on two baskets and stole Murry's pass and dunked.
"It has to be as good of five-minute stretch as we have had this year," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "We were everywhere. It appeared as if Billy (White) had a twin out there at the same time. It was like he was two places at once."
Murry played 30 minutes and finished with four assists and four turnovers. The Aztecs didn't give WSU many chances to fast break, plays that Murry thrives on as point guard. Ragland, a junior transfer, and Williams, a sophomore, aren't yet complete-enough players to direct the offense and defend against teams as talented as the Aztecs.
* In the first half, WSU played adequate first-shot defense to hold the Aztecs to 14-of-33 shooting.
Their changing defenses worked to keep San Diego State from getting in a flow and forced the Aztecs into 10 three-pointers. A lot of that work led to no good, however. The Aztecs grabbed seven offensive rebounds and scored 13 points off those rebounds in the first half. During one stretch, the Aztecs erased a four-point WSU lead by scoring 6 of 8 points after grabbing offensive rebounds.
In the second half, WSU closed the rebounding gap and gave up only two second-chance points. Seven second-half turnovers, however, gave the Aztecs 16 points off turnovers.
WSU bounced back from an earlier disappointment — its 83-79 loss to Connecticut — with four straight wins. The Shockers hoped to make up for letting one slip away by bagging a NCAA resume-builder against the Aztecs. Now they have five days to prepare for the remainder of their non-conference schedule.
"We felt like we played bad," WSU guard David Kyles said. "We can play way better than that. We've just got to bring it — on the road, at home."