Wichita State men's basketball beat the University of Connecticut in WSU's first game in the American Athletic Conference in Hartford, Conn. Jaime Green
Wichita State men's basketball beat the University of Connecticut in WSU's first game in the American Athletic Conference in Hartford, Conn. Jaime Green

Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State picks up its first American victory at Connecticut

By Taylor Eldridge

teldridge@wichitaeagle.com

December 30, 2017 01:18 PM

HARTFORD, Conn.

Wichita State won its first game in the American Athletic Conference the same way it won so many games in the Missouri Valley Conference the last 72 years — with defense and rebounding.

The Shockers prevailed 72-62 against Connecticut on Saturday at the XL Center thanks to limiting the Huskies to 38.7 percent shooting and outrebounding them 47-34. No. 8 WSU improved to 11-2 and registered a victory in its new conference on the first try, while UConn (7-6) lost for the fourth time in the last five games.

“We have to enjoy this,” WSU senior Rashard Kelly said. “Switching conferences and coming into a big-time program like UConn, you have to enjoy a win like this. But we’re not satisfied. We want more.”

Back-to-back three-pointers by Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp in the final minutes proved to be the dagger, but WSU won the game largely because of Kelly. His effort and desire to chase down every loose ball restored WSU to its foundation — defense and rebounding — in the second half, as the 6-foot-8 senior registered his second double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

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Kelly chased down six offensive rebounds, which spurred the Shockers to 17 offensive rebounds in the game. After UConn gained a slight advantage at halftime, WSU grabbed 52 percent of its own misses in the second half and limited UConn to rebounding just 11 percent of its own misses.

“Rashard Kelly was just a monster,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He had 12, but I thought he had 15 (rebounds). He had his hands on so many. Really proud of him. It took a team to win this game, but certainly Kelly was a beast on the glass.”

Wichita State had its moments offensively, but overall it was not a crisp performance. The Shockers shot under 38 percent and committed seven turnovers in the first half, yet still led 33-29 at the break because Connecticut is in the midst of its worst shooting season since the 1959-60 season.

After shooting 38.7 percent on Saturday, the Huskies are now shooting 40 percent from the floor for the season. They rank 315th in the country with 30 percent three-point accuracy after clanking their way to a 3-of-16 performance against WSU.

Even through UConn’s struggles, it briefly took a 42-41 lead in the second half and tied WSU at 49 with 9:25 remaining. The Shockers would lead for all but 13 seconds in the game’s final 23 minutes, but their lead wouldn’t stretch more than two possessions until the final four minutes.

“We played a team that’s played a lot of big-time games together and they showed their execution down the last five minutes where we couldn’t get any stops,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said.

The winning surge from WSU came when Shamet took a high ball screen by Shaquille Morris in transition and pulled up for a three-pointer for a 61-53 lead. UConn answered back with a Jalen Adams’ jumper, but Frankamp demoralized the Huskies with an answer of his own — a three-pointer on the wing. A Morris jumper the following possession gave WSU its largest lead, 66-55, with 2:23 remaining.

“We have a really good resolve,” Shamet said. “There’s not always something that needs to be said to get guys going. When adversity hits, usually we all respond the same way. We stick together and try to make good plays down the stretch.”

Taylor Eldridge talks about Wichita State’s men’s basketball first game in the American Athletic Conference. They defeated the University of Connecticut 72-62. (Dec. 30, 2017) jgreen@wichitaeagle.com

Connecticut was able to slow WSU’s offense in the first half by employing its 2-3 zone. WSU enjoyed success on kick-outs to the perimeter, hitting 12 three-pointers and making 48 percent of them, but struggled to score on the interior and made just 16 of 42 (38 percent) of its two-point shots.

Shamet made a season-high five three-pointers and finished with 16 points, five rebounds and six assists, while Frankamp and Austin Reaves each scored 11 points and hit three three-pointers. Adams and Terry Larrier led UConn with 18 points each, while Christian Vital added 17.

“We just tried to make smart reads on the weak-side and tried getting guys like Conner and Reaves open looks so they can knock them down for us,” Shamet said.

WSU struggled to put the game away after opening an 11-point lead. Shamet missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 foul shot, then Morris followed with a turnover to allow Connecticut to trim the lead to 68-62 with 36 seconds remaining. But WSU broke the full-court press on the following possession and Markis McDuffie sealed the victory with a slam dunk.

The Shockers, who entered the game as one of the nation’s top free-throw shooting teams at 76 percent, had their worst shooting game of the season from the foul line with their 4 of 12 performance. Shamet, an 89-percent shooter, and Morris, a 76-percent shooter, combined to miss five of seven shots.

“Maybe it wouldn’t have been so tight at the end if we could have moved the free throw line back to the three-point line,” Marshall said. “That was our bugaboo today.”

WSU has the longest active road-game winning streak in the nation at nine straight. Since the 2013-14 season, the Shockers own the most road wins (44) and best record (44-6) in the country.

Wichita St.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Z.Brown

18

1-4

0-0

3

1

1

3

Kelly

30

5-6

1-3

12

1

2

11

Morris

26

4-10

1-3

5

3

2

9

Frankamp

24

4-9

0-0

2

2

2

11

Shamet

35

5-9

1-4

5

6

2

16

Reaves

21

4-7

0-0

4

2

2

11

Willis

21

3-10

1-2

3

1

1

7

McDuffie

16

2-8

0-0

4

0

0

4

Haynes-Jones

7

0-4

0-0

1

0

0

0

Nurger

2

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

0

Totals

200

28-67

4-12

39

17

12

72

Percentages: FG .418, FT .333. 3-Point Goals: 12-25, .480 (Shamet 5-6, Reaves 3-4, Frankamp 3-7, Z.Brown 1-4, Willis 0-1, McDuffie 0-3). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 13 (6 PTS). Blocked Shots: 6 (Morris 3, Shamet 2, Kelly). Turnovers: 13 (Shamet 4, Morris 3, Willis 2, Haynes-Jones, Kelly, McDuffie, Z.Brown). Steals: 2 (Reaves, Shamet). Technical Fouls: None.

Uconn

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Onuorah

5

0-0

0-0

0

0

2

0

Whaley

14

0-0

0-0

2

0

2

0

Adams

39

7-20

4-4

5

6

2

18

Anderson

32

0-3

0-0

2

1

4

0

Larrier

39

9-20

0-0

3

2

2

18

Vital

31

4-11

7-9

5

0

3

17

Diarra

16

2-2

0-0

2

0

2

4

Carlton

14

1-4

0-0

4

0

2

2

Cobb

6

1-2

0-0

2

0

1

3

Polley

4

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

0

Totals

200

24-62

11-13

26

9

20

62

Percentages: FG .387, FT .846. 3-Point Goals: 3-16, .188 (Vital 2-6, Cobb 1-2, Anderson 0-2, Adams 0-3, Larrier 0-3). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 11 (19 PTS). Blocked Shots: 6 (Carlton 3, Whaley 2, Diarra). Turnovers: 11 (Adams 3, Carlton 2, Larrier 2, Anderson, Cobb, Onuorah, Vital). Steals: 12 (Adams 4, Vital 4, Anderson, Carlton, Diarra, Larrier). Technical Fouls: None.

Wichita St.

33

39

72

UConn

29

33

62

A—15,564 (15,564).

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @tayloreldridge