EVANSVILLE, Ind. _ Wichita State isn't picky about how it wins at Evansville. History has taught the Shockers to value those wins as much as any.
Winning 67-66 after leading by 10 with under eight minutes remaining is just fine with the Shockers.
"We didn't try to make it that close, but that's what we got," WSU center Garrett Stutz said. "Any win is still a big win."
WSU (11-3, 2-1 Missouri Valley Conference) escaped overtime in the final second. Evansville's Kenny Harris missed the second of two free throws, shooting too hard off the rim.
"It's a lot of relief," WSU forward Ben Smith said. "They're going to beat a lot of teams."
The Shockers won their second straight game in Evansville after losing close games in previous seasons. The scene did shift to the new Ford Center, an 11,000-seat arena in downtown Evansville.
Evansville (7-6, 2-1) couldn't handle Stutz, who scored a career-high 29 points. The Aces couldn't rebound with the bigger Shockers. And they couldn't find a scorer to help guard Colt Ryan, who burned WSU for 31 points.
"He's a dynamic scorer," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "He was pretty well-guarded tonight. It wasn't our best. It wasn't the best I've ever seen. But he was pretty well-guarded and he made contested shots."
The Aces are barely tall enough to contest Stutz. They don't start a player taller than 6-foot-8. Freshman Ryan Sawvell guarded Stutz most of the game and the Shockers took full advantage. Stutz made most of his shots within two or three feet of the rim. Evansville's help defense didn't bother him much. He also passed out of double-teams for four assists.
"They're young and under-sized, and I remember how tough it was when I was a freshman being that way," Stutz said. "We tried to exploit that matchup."
Out of all that, however, the Aces kept it close and kept rallying. WSU took a 61-51 lead on dunk by Stutz with 7:41 to play. The Shockers led 63-54 with 5:50 remaining.
"When you've got a guy like (Ryan), you're never out of it," Marshall said.
Ryan kept scoring and the Shockers helped with their mistakes. His free throws cut the lead to 63-56. After a Shocker miss, Harris beat everybody down court for a dunk. WSU's Toure Murry traveled and Ryan scored to cut the lead to 64-60. After Carl Hall missed, Harris made a three from the top of the key.
WSU's next two possessions ended with turnovers and Ryan's free throws gave the Aces a 65-64 lead with 1:24 to play.
Stutz followed in a Smith miss to regain the lead. Joe Ragland's free gave the Shockers a 67-65 lead with 23.4 remaining. The Aces called timeout with 16.8 to play intending to get the ball to Ryan and letting him create.
Ryan caught a pass off a screen, but Hall flicked it away. Ned Cox ran down the loose ball and drove to the basket with about eight seconds remaining. Hall challenged the shot and it rimmed off. A follow by Rokas Cesnulevisius bounced away and Harris was fouled by Smith on the rebound.
Harris made the first one. After a WSU timeout, the second bounced long off the back rim. Harris said the timeout didn't bother him.
"No, I've got to make free throws down the stretch," he said.