Defense brought Wichita State fans to their feet, then Wichita native Samajae Haynes-Jones kept them there with a career-high six three-pointers.
The Shockers nearly let a 33-point lead go to waste, but was able to hold on for a 71-63 victory over Big 12 opponent Baylor on Saturday night at Koch Arena. The Shockers (4-3) won back-to-back games for the first time this season, while sweeping the two-game series against Baylor (5-3).
Haynes-Jones scored a season-high 21 points and notched his first career double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds, while freshman Erik Stevenson added 18 and senior Markis McDuffie scored 15. WSU outrebounded Baylor 44-37, while holding Baylor to 23 of 62 shooting.
WSU led by 31 points early in the second half, but allowed the Bears to rally within 60-55 with 3:37 remaining in the second half. The Shockers’ offense produced just nine points during a 10-minute window in which Baylor outscored WSU 29-9.
The Bears even had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but missed and Stevenson scored on the other end to extend WSU’s lead to 62-55 with 2:36 remaining. Baylor committed a turnover on its next possession and Haynes-Jones scored in transition for a three-point play to immediately restore WSU’s lead to 65-55 with 2:16 remaining.
McDuffie clinched the game after a Dexter Dennis offensive rebound with a three-point play with 52 seconds left to put WSU up 68-59.
WSU’s defense made Shocker fans stay on their feet for more than seven minutes of game action, not that they minded as Haynes-Jones connected on back-to-back threes and McDuffie scored on a put-back for a 12-0 lead before Mark Vital scored for Baylor with 13:26 remaining in the first half.
It was the Shockers’ defense that buried Baylor, as WSU registered defensive stops on 18 of Baylor’s first 20 possessions. It was another defensive masterpiece prepared by assistant Lou Gudino, who also filed the scouting report for WSU’s other strong defensive outing this season against Davidson.
While WSU’s defense was grinding out stops, the offense was staging a shoot-off from beyond the arc between its own players.
The competition began when Haynes-Jones drilled a deep three for a 25-6 lead. Stevenson capitalized on Koch Arena’s soft rims by getting a three to rattle in, then swished his next attempt to cap off a 9-point burst in one minute. Baylor coach Scott Drew had to burn a timeout, as the Koch Arena crowd roared at perhaps its loudest output of the season.
Not that the timeout would stop this shoot-out.
Not to be outdone by Stevenson, Haynes-Jones came out of the timeout and followed with back-to-back threes. WSU would break down Baylor’s defense to give Stevenson a wide-open corner three so he could hit his third three to tie Haynes-Jones in the outburst.
In less than three minutes, Haynes-Jones and Stevenson had blitzed Baylor on an 18-3 run with six three-pointers to stake WSU to a 40-9 lead.
“For most of our guys, it will be the first time in an environment like this against a team this psychically and mentally tough and challenging as Wichita State,” Drew said before the game. “But that’s what we’re going to face the rest of the year.”
Falling behind by 33 points in the first half probably wasn’t what Drew had in mind. But the Bears would rally in the second half to make the Shockers sweat it out in what seemed like a blowout victory.
WSU’s offense bogged down in the second half, which allowed Baylor to slowly but surely claw its way back into the game. WSU led 49-20 with 16:26 left in the second half, but then Baylor reeled off a 13-3 run and the Shockers’ lead dwindled to 52-33 with 12:53 remaining and Marshall angrily ripped off his suit jacket and burned a 30-second timeout to stem the tide.
WSU pushed its lead back to 21, but then its offense scored four points over the next six minutes as Baylor whittled away at the lead and eventually cut it down to seven, 60-53, with 4:03 remaining. Baylor would threaten in the final four minutes, but WSU’s offense scored just enough to hold on.
After WSU’s 1-2 performance at the Charleston Classic, Marshall said his team needed time in the gym just practicing. After WSU’s last two games, it appears Marshall knew exactly what this youthful team needed.
After a week to prepare for Rice, WSU similarly picked the Owls apart in the first half and won by 29 points. Given another week to prepare for Baylor, the Shockers came out with an even more impressive performance (at least for 30 minutes) to defeat a Big 12 opponent.
The Shockers will have another week to prepare for Oklahoma (6-1) in Oklahoma City next Saturday.