The script couldn’t get any better.
On senior day with a conference championship on the line, Conner Frankamp, a senior from Wichita, let fly a three-pointer with Wichita State trailing by one point in the final seconds.
But there was no perfect ending for WSU’s six seniors, at least not in their final game at Koch Arena, as Frankamp’s shot missed and senior Darral Willis couldn’t score on the follow. No. 10 Cincinnati defeated No. 11 Wichita State 62-61 on Sunday.
“That’s not the last one you’re going to take,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall told Frankamp, as he wrapped his arm around him on the court.
“I would still do the same thing, I would give him the opportunity to make that shot,” Marshall said in his postgame news conference. “You’ve got a senior that is a great shooter and a great scorer and another senior on the backside with the offensive rebound. You would bet they would make one of those shots.”
It was the final missed opportunity in a half full of them.
WSU tied Cincinnati four times in the first eight minutes of the half before finally taking its first lead of the half, 49-48, with 11:20 remaining. From there, WSU had four possessions in the next four minutes that could have extended its lead and came up empty all four times.
After Rashard Kelly’s ferocious dunk tied the score at 58 with 5:30 remaining, WSU scored three points in its final seven possessions. The Shockers committed two turnovers and missed six of their final seven shots.
“We had looks,” Marshall said. “We have to make one of those plays.”
The final look came on a baseline out of bounds play with nine seconds remaining after WSU’s initial attempt on the possession, a foray by Landry Shamet into the lane, was swatted away by Cincinnati’s Gary Clark. Marshall had the option to use a timeout and draw up a play, which he has had success with this season, but opted against it and called for a quick-hitter to Frankamp.
WSU created the situation it wanted — Frankamp isolated on a Cincinnati big man — as Cincinnati switched the screen and left 6-foot-11 center Nysier Brooks on Frankamp, but the end result was a contested three and missed shot. Frankamp finished the game 2 of 8 shooting and 0 of 4 on three-pointers.
“The ball looked good,” Marshall said. “I thought he was going in. I just had that much faith in Conner. Obviously he didn’t make a three tonight, but he’s still one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in my life.”
While a contested three-pointer isn’t an ideal shot when a team is trailing by one, Frankamp does have a history of making tough shots. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Frankamp ranks in the 96th percentile of college basketball in scoring efficiency on shots created from baseline out of bounds plays.
“All ya’ll from Wichita have seen Conner Frankamp make a shot like that for the last 10 years,” Kelly said. “It was a hell of a game, a one-point game, that came down to the last shot.”
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said it was a shot he could live with.
“I thought they got a little disorganized,” Cronin said of the last play. “We went with our big lineup, so we could switch everything. Our goal was don’t lose on a free throw or a layup. These guys executed it. Try to make them make a shot to beat us. They’ve got plenty of guys who can make them, but I’ve seen too many teams lose the game on a free throw.”
But to WSU, the loss didn’t come down to any one play or shot.
The Shockers had their chances on Sunday.
“We would get a stop and you could feel the crowd start getting real excited in transition, then we couldn’t convert,” Shamet said. “But that felt like it could have been at a neutral site in March down the road in the tournament.”