Wichita State called a two-part play at the end of overtime. Part one called for guard Fred VanVleet to use a screen to drive and pass to or take the shot himself. Part two called for everybody else to rebound.
That part of the play suits freshman Rashard Kelly perfectly. He grabbed VanVleet’s miss in a pile of bodies and banked in a shot to give No. 11 Wichita State an 80-79 win over Hawaii at the Sheriff Center.
“At the end of the day, you can’t stop playing basketball until you hear a whistle or a buzzer,” Kelly said. “I kept playing, and the ball happened to come in my hand.”
Rebounding is Kelly’s specialty, the main reason WSU recruited him. That skill paid off big on Tuesday and shut down an upset threat by charged-up Hawaii (9-4).
“He is ball-getter,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Rashard Kelly just exploded up and grabbed the ball. He pogoed up and stuck it back in.”
After Hawaii missed a desperation shot, the Shockers dog-piled Kelly on the court. The Warriors walked off, stunned, after blowing a chance at season-defining victory.
“We had Wichita State on the ropes,” Hawaii’s Aaron Valdes said. “We just couldn’t close it out.”
The crowd grew throughout the game, perhaps delayed by the early tip off. Perhaps word spread that Hawaii had a chance to pull the upset. It isn’t normal to play in a holiday tournament and face home-court advantage, but that is where No. 11 Wichita State found itself on Tuesday.
The Shockers gave the Hawaii fans reason to hope with a turnover-filled first half, poor shooting from three-point range and crucial misses from the line in the final minutes. Foul trouble kept Darius Carter rooted to the bench. The pep band played the theme from “Hawaii 5-0.” The fans chanted “Let’s go, Bows.”
A road game. Not what anybody wanted for Christmas.
Hawaii had several chances to send the crowd, those not rooting for the Shockers at least, home happy. They led 70-68 near the end of regulation and WSU’s Ron Baker tied the game with two free throws. Hawaii led 77-74 in overtime and had the ball with under two minutes to play. WSU outscored the Warriors 6-2 to win.
Hawaii’s Mike Thomas got loose for a layup, eluding the switching WSU defenders on an inbound play, to give the Warriors a 79-78 lead with 17.7 seconds to play in overtime. VanVleet made his first three of the game seconds earlier to put WSU up 78-77.
Valdes made a three-pointer for a 70-68 lead with 43 seconds to play in regulation. Isaac Fleming fouled Baker with 27.5 seconds to play and Baker tied the game with two free throws. Baker blocked a jumper by Negus Chan-Webster and VanVleet grabbed the loose ball. He passed to Baker with about three seconds to play and Baker’s heave from around halfcourt bounced off the rim.
The Shockers led 60-53 when troubles at the foul line resurfaced. Rauno Nurger missed the front end of a one-and-one, then one of two. Baker missed after scoring and drawing a foul. Then Baker missed the first of two. The Warriors took advantage and surged to a 65-64 lead.
Hawaii’s three-point shooting took over early in the first half. The Warriors entered the game shooting 29 percent behind the arc, but they shot eagerly and made three in a row in the second half to go up 47-41.
WSU’s press, as it often does, changed the course of the game. VanVleet made two free throws after the easiest steal of his life — Hawaii’s Stefan Jankovic passed the ball to him under the basket to avoid a five-second count — to cut Hawaii’s lead to 49-46. Baker’s three from the top of the key tied the game. Rashard Kelly snatched a pass near half court and drew a foul. His free throws gave WSU a 51-49 lead with 12:27 to play.
Baker intercepted a wild pass by Isaac Fleming, trying to throw over the press, and fed Kelly for a layup and a 55-51 lead. After Nurger blocked a layup by Quincy Smith, Kelly followed in a miss for a 57-51 lead to cap a 15-2 run in which Hawaii committed five turnovers.
Hawaii’s press and traps, fronted by quick and aggressive guards, messed with WSU‘s offensive flow. The Shockers committed 11 first-half turnovers and Hawaii scored eight points off them.
The Shockers missed their first eight three-pointers, then Zach Brown made two. One from the corner gave WSU a 25-24 lead and one from the wing put WSU ahead 30-26.
Foul shots and offensive rebounds helped the Shocker survive poor shooting in the first half. They made 10 of 12 free throws and grabbed six offensive rebounds to score nine second-chance points. Baker, because of fouls, played only nine minutes and missed all three of his three-pointers.
With junior Evan Wessel sidelined with a sprained ankle, Marshall dipped into his bench often to find a reserve capable of helping. Brown did that with his outside shooting.
Hawaii guard Isaac Fleming came off the bench to score 14 points, making 6 of 8 shots, in the first half.
No. 11 Wichita State vs. George Washington
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Sheriff Center, Honolulu
Records: WSU 10-1, GW 8-3
Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
Diamond Head Classic
George Washington 77, Ohio 49
Colorado 82, DePaul 68
Wichita State 80, Loyola Marymount 53
Hawaii 66, Nebraska 58
Ohio 99, DePaul 78
George Washington 53, Colorado 50
Wichita State 80, Hawaii 79 (OT)
Nebraska vs. Loyola Marymount, 10:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Seventh place — DePaul vs. Loyola Marymount/Nebraska, 12:30 p.m.
Fifth place — Ohio vs. Loyola Marymount/Nebraska, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Third place — Colorado vs. Hawaii, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Championship — George Washington vs. Wichita State, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)