An hour before Tuesday night’s tip off at the FedEx Forum, Wichita State senior Zach Brown’s energy was contagious.
In a normally robotic shooting drill, Brown’s enthusiastic clapping broke the silence. He yelled. He danced. He even took on the challenge to guard everybody in the lay-up line. In short, he wanted to make sure No. 22 Wichita State was energized for the start of its road game against Memphis.
The energy carried over to the game, as Wichita State grabbed its second-highest rate of offensive rebounds of the season and scored 23 second-chance points in an 85-65 victory to snap a two-game road losing skid. The Shockers improved to 18-5 and 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference, while Memphis (14-10, 5-6) lost for the fourth time in the last five games.
Despite suffering through a cold shooting start, Wichita State still scored at a healthy 1.21 points per possession thanks to 14 offensive rebounds.
Austin Reaves led all scorers with 22 points, his third straight game of 20 or more, and hit five three-pointers. Landry Shamet added 20 points and five assists, while Darral Willis collected another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
After building a 12-2 lead within the first four minutes, Wichita State spent the majority of the game with a double-digit lead until Memphis made a late run at the lead.
A pair of live-ball turnovers jump-started a 6-0 Memphis run that allowed the Tigers to trim WSU’s lead to 51-46 with still more than 10 minutes to play. It was eerily similar to the Temple game, which WSU led for 32 minutes in regulation before allowing the Owls to rally in the final five minutes and eventually win in overtime.
This time when its lead was in danger — Memphis trimmed its deficit to five — WSU responded with crisp play on both ends to push the lead back out to double-digits. The Shockers strung together four straight defensive stops, and Shamet scored three baskets and made two free throws, Shaquille Morris finished a three-point play, Darral Willis scored twice, and Brown made a pair of free throws during a 17-3 run that all but clinched the victory.
By the time the run was over, WSU led 71-52 and Memphis’ crowd was dejected with five minutes remaining.
The strong start after Brown’s pregame intensity led to scores on five of WSU’s first six offensive possessions, as Shamet snapped out of his long shooting slump by drilling his first two three-point attempts. Rashard Kelly added a dunk and then scored again.
Memphis would rally to within two points midway through the first half, but Reaves drilled a three-pointer on a second opportunity following a Kelly offensive rebound to kick off a stretch where he scored seven straight points and WSU pushed the lead to 36-25 late in the first half.
The Shockers shot 34.2 percent in the first half, but still scored 40 points because it tracked down 12 of 24 possible offensive rebounds. Morris and Willis each found three, while Kelly extended two possessions. WSU outscored Memphis 17-2 in the first half on second-chance points.