By trying something different out of desperation, Wichita State remained a second-place team in the American Athletic Conference.
Granted, that could seem like a meager consolation prize for the Shockers considering they are still chasing the AAC’s only ranked team, red-hot No. 5 Houston.
But momentum is always a good commodity and Wichita State (9-4, 5-2) is riding some as it resumes a three-game homestand Wednesday against Tulane (7-5, 2-5).
Down by eight inside the four-minute mark of regulation at UCF on Saturday, the Shockers went to a rare zone press that left them falling back into an aggressive man-to-man. The defensive ploy sparked a 93-88 overtime victory, extending their homecourt win streak in AAC play to seven games dating back to last season.
“It shows that we can win when our backs are against the wall. You’ve got to win at home in conference,” said Tyson Etienne, who scored 29 points and leads Wichita State with a 17.6-point average.
“We just had two cancellations. So, it was encouraging, definitely a confidence booster for us moving forward.”
Shockers interim coach Isaac Brown credited Clarence Jackson for getting to the free-throw line for a couple of critical three-point plays, which enabled Wichita State to set up its 1-2-2 zone press as UCF in-bounded the ball.
“(Jackson) may make some mistakes but he’s out there clapping his hands. He’s out there going to the offensive glass,” Brown said. “He just brings energy, and we need that at times. He doesn’t always execute but he always plays hard and that’s what I’m starting to love about that kid.”
Tulane snapped a three-game losing streak with an 81-64 victory at Temple on Sunday behind 23 points from Jaylen Forbes. The Green Wave, like many AAC teams, had its January schedule disrupted with multiple postponements related to COVID-19.
When it returned to action on Jan. 28, Tulane fell behind by 28 points in the first half against Houston, though a 46-point second half could have been a springboard to the performance at Temple.
“What you saw (at Temple) was what I thought we could be as a team,” Tulane coach Ron Hunter said. “Everything really came together.”
Forbes averages 15.5 points to pace the Green Wave, who struggle from 3-point range, shooting just 29.7 percent. Tulane also has a negative rebounding differential of 3.7.
–Field Level Media