Time was running out, with the Wichita State women’s basketball team trailing by two and in desperate need of a basket.
No, this wasn’t the ending to a championship game the program has played in so many times the last three seasons.
The Shockers found themselves in this precarious position at the end of an exhibition game against Central Oklahoma, an NCAA Division II opponent, in Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Wichita State would make the winning plays to pull out a 68-61 victory, but coach Jody Adams wasn’t concerned much about the score or that her team of newcomers (five of the eight who played made their debut at WSU) struggled in large portions of the game.
Adams was just happy the first game was out of the way.
“I give our group the credit for maintaining their composure and being coachable,” Adams said. “I knew how difficult this game would be and how much it would test us.”
Central Oklahoma essentially controlled the game through three quarters, taking a seven-point lead on WSU with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.
But Jyar Francis, a true freshman, rescued the Shockers with her aggression working from the high post. She scored eight of her game-high 21 points in the final five minutes with the four baskets all coming at crucial junctures.
The last basket, where Francis made her defender bite on a slight pump fake at the free-throw line and drove past her for a lay-in, put WSU ahead by three with 52 seconds left. It came after a Marija Pacar three-pointer gave WSU its final lead of the game, 62-61.
The key, according to Adams, was Francis playing with confidence and aggression.
“I’m usually in the right position at the right time,” Francis said. “Being aggressive is something I’ll have to bring to the table all the time.”
The 13-2 run to close the game earned WSU the win, but it didn’t cover up the amount of times the team was exposed on defense with its lack of communication.
Adams said she specifically sought out Central Oklahoma because she knew they would be a set-dependent team that plays similar to many Missouri Valley teams. Time and time again, Central Oklahoma beat WSU on backdoor cuts for easy lay-ins.
“That’s what we did as a veteran group, we used to pick on the newcomers,” Adams said. “Those newcomers, it’s going to teach them early. When they can absorb it and they can see it, they can start figuring it out and your team just grows. This team is very talented. We’re just figuring out how to play together, who can gets stops, who can make shots, who does what well.”
Diamond Lockhart, a sophomore transfer, also impressed in her debut with 20 points on an efficient 9 of 14 shooting performance. She also appeared capable of creating her own shots, which were usually mid-range jump shots.
Wichita State opens its season Friday at Creighton and Adams knows her team will have to be better — a lot better — to compete on the road, but after Sunday she was just excited to have some film to show her batch of first-year players.
“The score is what the score is,” Adams said. “Could we have gotten beat? Sure, if we didn’t execute and didn’t execute in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. But give our players credit for listening and working together and finding a way.”
CENTRAL OKLAHOMA: Anderson 3-7 0-0 6, Weathers 2-9 0-0 4, Solberg 7-14 5-6 19, Mason 1-3 3-4 5, Womack 3-5 1-2 7, Bailey 5-9 0-0 12, Lee 0-0 0-0 0, Mason 2-4 1-1 5, Blessington 1-3 1-2 3, Gray 0-0 0-0. Totals 24-54 11-15 61.
WICHITA STATE: Stovall 2-6 1-2 5, Lockhart 9-14 1-2 20, Martin 1-2 0-2 2, Chapel 0-4 2-4 2, Lehne 3-5 1-2 7, Francis 6-10 8-10 21, Pacar 1-3 0-0 3, Mike 0-3 8-10 8. Totals 22-47 21-32 68.
Halftime—Wichita State 33, Central Oklahoma 33. Three-point shooting—UCO 2-12 (Bailey 2-3, Anderson 0-1, Weathers 0-4, Solberg 0-4), WSU 3-8 (Lockhart 1-1, Pacar 1-1, Francis 1-3, Mike 0-1, Lehne 0-2). Rebounds—UCO 29 (Solberg 7), WSU 33 (Martin, Lehne, Francis 6). Assists—UCO 11 (Three tied at 2), WSU 6 (Stovall 3). Fouls—UCO 25, WSU 23.