A national stage brought out the best in Markis McDuffie and the Shockers.
In the same week Wichita State lost its home-opener for the first time in more than two decades, McDuffie snapped out of his shooting funk and scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Shockers to an 83-80 victory over a Providence team receiving votes in the top-25 poll.
With a national audience watching the Veterans Classic game on Navy’s campus in Annapolis, Md., no one was better than the senior from Paterson, N.J. McDuffie made a career-high six three-pointers and delivered clutch baskets throughout the second half to lift the Shockers to an important victory for a young team.
After a chilly season-opening shoot performance, the Shockers bounced back in a big way, shooting 50 percent from the field and making 12 of 22 three-pointers against Providence. WSU was also much better rebounding, out-rebounding Providence by four (39-35).
Fellow senior Samajae Haynes-Jones was also excellent, balancing out his shooting and passing to deliver 15 points and a career-high eight assists. Freshman Morris Udeze (10 points) also found success in his 20 minutes off the bench manning the baseline for WSU and waiting for dump-off passes to dunk. Alpha Diallo led Providence with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
But the win didn’t come without nervous moments.
After WSU took a 13-point lead, Providence pressed its way back into the game. Providence used a spurt where it hit back-to-back threes to cut the Shockers’ lead to 76-72 with 3:16 remaining. But WSU’s defense produced four straight stops, as a McDuffie bucket and free throws by Jamarius Burton helped seal the victory.
WSU established a 62-51 lead midway through the second half with an 11-2 run started by a four-point play by McDuffie. Freshman Erik Stevenson side-stepped a defender on his drive and finger rolled in a layup, Udeze finished strongly inside and McDuffie capped off the run with another three-pointer.
The rough start to the game was a distant memory by the end. It was hard to remember WSU actually fell behind by 10 in the game’s first five minutes before Haynes-Jones rescued the Shockers with three three-pointers in a span of two minutes to cut the Providence lead to 19-16.
Providence extended its lead back to seven points, but WSU reeled off a 10-0 run to stake claim to a 30-27 lead. The rally was highlighted by a good stretch from McDuffie, who made an acrobatic five-footer, hustled back down the floor to make a diving save for WSU’s defense, then capped it off by stroking in a three.
When the Friars roared back to take a 39-34 lead late in the first half, WSU again showed resilience. The Shockers ended the half on another 10-0 run, started by back-to-back finishes by the seniors, McDuffie and Haynes-Jones, at the rim. Marshall switched to a four-guard lineup for the final 90 seconds to great success. The smaller lineup was active in its 2-3 zone and produced two straight defensive stops.
The half concluded on a Marshall set piece special. After calling a timeout with 22 seconds left, WSU sent Haynes-Jones into a pick-and-roll with Udeze serving as the decoy. The real target was Stevenson, who waited at the free throw line for Udeze to set the pick, then went streaking to the three-point line as Stevenson’s defender was chipped by a rolling Udeze down the middle of the lane.
That allowed Stevenson to rattle in a wide-open three-pointer to close out the half and electrify the Shockers’ contingent in Annapolis.