Wichita State Shockers

Utah knocks off No. 8 Wichita State in overtime, ending regular-season win streak

Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet (23) shoots as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl defends in the first half Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet (23) shoots as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl defends in the first half Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Associated Press

Wichita State did not let go of its 35-game regular-season win streak easily.

No. 25 Utah defeated No. 8 WSU 69-68 on Wednesday at the Huntsman Center. The Shockers led by 10 early and trailed by 10 late and just when it appeared hopeless, they rallied to force overtime.

When it ended, the Utes (6-1) celebrated in a pack at midcourt and then took a victory lap to slap hands with fans. The Shockers (4-1) walked off quietly. Fans threw glow-sticks at the WSU bench. Fans in the student section took pictures with the scoreboard in the background.

It is a big deal to beat the Shockers. Why? Because they are the kind of team to endure a miserable shooting night on the road, foul trouble and trail by seven in the final three minutes and force overtime. In overtime, they trailed by four points and scored five straight to take a lead.

“They showed some great reslience,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “It was just a gritty game. We played well in the first half. They played better in the second half. In overtime, they played one point better.”

WSU ran out of rallies in a painful way, with guard Fred VanVleet at the foul line with 7.5 seconds to play and the Shockers down 69-68. VanVleet, a career 79-percent shooter from the line, missed the front end of a one-and-one. Evan Wessel grabbed the rebound, but he missed a short bank shot. VanVleet missed a desperation three with 1.4 seconds to play — after Utah missed three free throws — to end the game.

Those sequences summed up a difficult offensive game for the Shockers, who struggled to score against the taller Utes in the lane and produced little offensive flow. Utah’s guards, showing little fear of WSU’s inside game, pressured VanVleet and Ron Baker and forced them into difficult shots. WSU senior Darius Carter gave WSU brief moments of inside scoring — he had 10 points — but foul trouble limited him to 19 minutes.

“Darius was the one guy we thought could score in there on (Utah center Jakob) Poeltl,” Marshall said. “We were doing a ball-screen offense, and they defended it well.”

The Shockers shot 38.1 percent for the game and missed five of seven shots in overtime. VanVleet missed 14 of 19 shots and eight of 10 three-pointers. Ron Baker led WSU with 15 points. Tekele Cotton added 14.

Brandon Taylor led Utah with 17 points. The Utes made 9 of 21 three-pointers, three each by Taylor and Dakarai Tucker.

The Shockers lost a regular-season game for the first time since 2013. Utah also ended a 12-game road win streak and a 19-game non-conference regular-season win streak.

“This is why we made this schedule — we knew this was going to be a tough one,” Baker said. “It came down to one possession.”

Utah’s Delon Wright made that one play on that overtime possession. He scored in the lane for a 69-68 lead, which barely stood up.

After Wessel’s miss, Shaq Morris fouled Utah’s Chris Reyes with 3.2 seconds to play. Reyes missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Poeltl grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.7 seconds to play. He missed both free throws, leaving the Shockers 1.4 seconds to hope for a miracle.

Not this time. Wessel inbounded to VanVleet, whose desperation shot didn’t come close.

The Shockers forced overtime with a furious rally, led by Cotton. WSU cut the lead to 58-54 on VanVleet’s three-pointer with 1:10 to play. Utah failed to inbound the ball against WSU’s press and Tekele Cotton’s three made it a one-point game. Cotton stole the inbound pass and VanVleet sank a three-pointer for a 60-58 lead, stunning the crowd.

“Our defensive pressure started it,” Wessel said. “We were able to turn up the pressure a little bit and get it tied up at the end. I though we were definitely ready to play coming into overtime.”

The Shockers trailed 65-61 in overtime and again rallied. Wessel, left alone by the Utes defense, made a three to make it 65-64. His free throws with 1:08 remaining gave WSU a one-point lead.

Taylor scored, dribbling through the defense and banking in a layup. Baker grabbed a 68-67 lead with a twisting baseline drive.

Utah’s Dakarai Tucker tied the game 60-all with two free throws with 18.5 seconds to play. VanVleet missed a long, triple-teamed three in the final second to send the game to overtime.

Referee David Hall took an elbow to the head after tossing the jump ball to start overtime. The blow knocked him to the floor for more than a minute and he had to be helped off the court.. The game finished with two officials.

The Shockers sprinted to a 10-0 lead, helped by three Utah turnovers and Carter’s block of a dunk. Cotton made two three-pointers during the run. The Utes didn’t score until Poeltl’s free throw with 15:21 remaining in the first half.

Poeltl, a 7-foot freshman from Austria, pulled Utah back into the game by feasting on pick-and-roll points. His dunk cut WSU’s lead to 10-7. Poeltl scored 11 points in the first half and his activity drew the Shockers big men into foul trouble. He shot five free throws in the first half and Carter and Shaq Morris both ended the first half with two fouls.

WSU answered each Utah run in the first half, despite foul trouble, and led 33-29. Carter, Cotton and Baker each scored eight points. Carter’s free throws ended a Utes run and gave WSU a 21-16 lead. Baker’s three-pointer quieted the crowd after the Utes cut the lead to 26-22.

WSU shot 39.4 percent (13 of 33) in the first. Utah’s aggressive defense forced the Shockers into more dribbling and one-on-one offense than is normal. Carter played nine minutes in the first half and when he went to the bench, WSU had no inside threat to help the guards. The Shockers grabbed six offensive rebounds, three by freshman Rashard Kelly, and scored seven second-chance points.

Utah made 10 of 22 shots and committed five turnovers in the first half.

The Utes took their first lead on a three-pointer by Brekott Chapman, a shot that bounced near the top of the backboard and then in the basket for a 39-36 lead. WSU’s Ria’n Holland responded with a three to tie. Utah’s Dakaral Tucker’s three put the Utes back on top 42-39, bringing the crowd to a roar.

The red-and-white striped arena roared again when Dallin Bachynski dunked and drew Darius Carter’s third foul. His free throw gave Utah a 45-40 lead with 11:49 to play. Another three by Tucker extended the lead to 48-42 and a Shocker turnover led to a dunk for Delon Wright and an eight-point deficit.

Carter scored on a hook shot, but picked up his fourth foul seconds later.

The Utes build a 56-46 lead on threes by Tucker and Taylor. In between, VanVleet’s miserable shooting night continued when he missed a wide-open three, dropping him to 0 for 6 from behind the arc.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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