Wichita State coach Jody Adams saw the three-point line as the great equalizer on Monday night at Koch Arena against the size and length of No. 21 Louisiana State. So the Shockers launched bomb after bomb from the perimeter, gaining confidence each time a they hit a shot.
Wichita State hitched its upset bid to the three-point shot and the Shockers lived by it —attempting a school-record 37 threes— and then they died by it, missing their final four attempts in a 64-56 loss.
"I told these guys they would have open shots," Adams said. "It would be, 'Did they put in the time away from practice and build that confidence to be ready to knock down that open shot?' It would be just like they were shooting by themselves in Koch Arena. I asked them to be shot-ready tonight and they were."
Wichita State fulfilled its role of the fearless underdog, which caught LSU off-guard in the game's opening. Alicia Sanchez and Krystle Henderson sent the first warning shots that LSU would be in for a game, connecting on back-to-back threes for an 8-2 lead.
"We wanted to put them back on their heels in the beginning and I think we did that," said senior Haleigh Lankster, who scored 13 points.
There were times where LSU took what it wanted, as WSU couldn't do much about the caliber of athletes from the Southeastern Conference. But the Shockers squeezed 22 turnovers out of LSU and finished with 10 more offensive rebounds.
"Give Wichita State a lot of credit," said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, who was teammates with Adams at Tennessee. "They exploited us on some of our missed rotations defensively and they continued to fight until the end."
The effort of WSU was embodied by reserve Kelsey Jacobs, who led all rebounders with 10. Major conferences passed on Jacobs in high school, but the 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman validated herself on Monday.
"I kept threatening her every time I took her off the court and sat her down," Adams said, laughing. "Once she got in the flow of things, she realized she could jump and rebound with (the No. 21) team in the country."
"I was just like, 'I need to go out there and do what my team needs me to do,'" Jacobs said. "It's kind of a mental thing. My team needed me to get those boards."
Jacobs kept the ball alive on the possession that led to Jessica Diamond — who scored a team-high 16 points — connecting on the second of back-to-back three's to give WSU a 46-41 lead in the second half.
But the downfall of the Shockers was not breaking the school-record of three-point shots attempted by 13, it was their inability to finish in the paint. Wichita State shot 28 percent in the paint, highlighted by an 0-for-7 performance from Jazimen Gordon.
Those misses began to add up and WSU couldn't overcome them in the end.
Lankster hit a three to draw within 57-54, but LSU answered 17 seconds later with a three of its own. Henderson missed a three-pointer with 1:21 left that would have cut the deficit to one. After that miss, the upset bid vanished.
"We're not satisfied because we know we could have won that game," Lankster said.
Count it as a valuable experience for the Shockers (1-1).
"If they work together and be coachable and rebound the ball and play with heart, you will have a chance to shock the nation," Adams said. "We had that chance. We will learn from this and we will finish a big game at some point in time this year."
LOUISIANA STATE (1-0): Jones 1-2 2-6 4, Black 0-0 1-2 1, Barrett 6-10 3-8 16, Kenney 6-7 0-0 16, Hughes 2-4 0-1 4, Lutley 1-1 0-0 2, Webb 3-4 0-0 6, Forthan 3-6 0-0 8, Plaisance 2-4 0-0 5, Turnbow 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 24-39 8-19 64.
WICHITA STATE (1-1): Turner 2-6 2-2 6, Gordon 0-7 2-2 2, Henderson 3-8 0-0 9, Sanchez 1-4 1-2 4, Lankster 5-16 0-1 13, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, O'Brien 0-1 0-0 0, Diamond 6-12 0-0 16, Jacobs 3-9 0-1 6, Harden 0-2 0-0 0, Wells 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-65 5-8 56.
Halftime—LSU 35, WSU 31. Three-point shooting—LSU 8-12 (Kenney 4-5, Plaisance 1-1, Barrett 1-2, Webb 0-1); WSU 11-37 (Diamond 4-8, Henderson 3-8, Lankster 3-14, Sanchez 1-4, Turner 0-1, Jacobs 0-1, Harden 0-1). Rebounds—LSU 38 (Forthan 7); WSU 31 (Jacobs 10). Assists—LSU 14 (Kenney 5); WSU 14 (Henderson 4). Fouls—LSU 16, WSU 18. A—2,038.