As tensions on the court grew with time dwindling away and Wichita State’s deficit remaining, it was the booming New Jersey accent of Markis McDuffie tha cut through the nervous silence.
“Just gimme the ball!” McDuffie screamed at no one in particular.
Message received. McDuffie demanded the ball down the stretch, scored 15 of his team-high 24 points in the final six minutes and delivered Wichita State a come-from-behind 82-76 victory over Appalachian State on Friday in a consolation game in the Charleston Classic.
The Shockers (2-2) will play Alabama (3-1) for fifth place at 12:30 p.m. Sunday and a winning record for this week in Charleston.
The Shockers’ Jaime Echenique registered his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Samajae Haynes-Jones and freshman Jamarius Burton each added 14 points for WSU, while Justin Forrest scored a game-high 28 points for Appalachian State.
It was another up-and-down performance by the Shockers.
They appeared in control of the game and capable of slicing up Appalachian State’s defense with ease when the Shockers took a 55-48 lead midway through the second half. But then WSU’s ice-cold shooting from the previous night in Charleston returned.
It was a seven-minute stretch where WSU missed 7 of 10 shots and only produced six points and Appalachian State capitalized by rallying for a 66-61 lead with six minutes left.
That’s when McDuffie took over for WSU. He swished a three that snapped WSU out of its rut and trimmed the deficit to two points. He attacked the basket to draw a foul and made both of his free throws. Then he rose up and delivered a clutch three-pointer for a 69-68 lead with 4:08 remaining.
McDuffie added another three on the following possession to extend the lead to 72-68, scored a layup for a 75-70 lead, then made two free throws in the clutch for a 80-75 lead with 10 seconds left.
Less than 24 hours after scoring 53 points on 30.8 percent shooting, WSU scored 44 points on 48.6 percent shooting in the first half alone to build a nine-point halftime advantage. But it was needed to stave off the upset-minded Mountaineers.
Appalachian State made six three-pointers in the first 12 minutes to put the Shockers in a 29-23 deficit. The hot start was spurred on by sophomore guard Justin Forrest, a player WSU had once recruited. Forrest may have used that as motivation, as he scored 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting in the first half.
The first-half spark for WSU was delivered by Echenique, an under-the-radar junior-college find by Gregg Marshall. Echenique delivered an electric three-minute performance where he scored on two tip-ins, stepped out and knocked down a three, took a charge, and even threw an assist to Erik Stevenson on a back cut for a layup.
When Echenique was done, WSU had engineered a 12-1 run to retake the lead, 37-32, with 3:17 left in the first half. In fact, WSU outscored Appalachian State 19-4 in the final six minutes as it tacked on a quick 7-0 spurt to end the half and take a 44-35 lead into halftime.