Wichita State has a history of swooping behind enemy lines and winning games and deflating packed arenas.
That was certainly the case in Saturday’s Top 25 matchup as the No. 8 Shockers scored the final seven points in the last three minutes to pull out a 69-62 win over No. 16 Baylor before a near sellout crowd of 9,733 at the Ferrell Center.
The win gave Wichita State a nation’s best 42-6 record in road games over the last five seasons, and stopped Baylor’s nonconference winning streak at 46 games at the Ferrell Center. The Bears’ five-year nonconference home winning streak was the second longest in the country behind Duke’s 136 games.
Wichita State (6-1) features a senior-oriented team, and their experience showed in the final critical minutes against the Bears (5-2), who dropped their second straight game after Tuesday’s 76-63 loss to No. 21 Xavier in Cincinnati.
“It’s really unique in college basketball to have six out of nine guys in a rotation being seniors and a couple of them fifth year,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Obviously, they have a great tradition there. Coach (Gregg) Marshall is one of the best coaches in the country, and always does a great job putting guys in position to be successful.”
The Bears had difficulty getting good shots against Wichita State’s physical defense as they hit a season-low 37.3 percent overall and five of 21 from 3-point range. Baylor also had trouble stopping the Shockers’ 3-point shooters as they hit 10 of 16, including five of eight by Conner Frankamp and three of four by Landry Shamet.
“Defensively, we could have done some things a little bit better, identify shooters and get out to them a little quicker,” Drew said. “But you’ve got to credit them for making the shots. Ten for 16 is hard to do if there’s no defense on you, so that was the big difference.”
With senior forward Terry Maston out until January with a broken right hand suffered against Xavier, the Bears had fewer options in the paint. Redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly was cleared to play for the first time this season after dealing with medical issues, but he was limited to three minutes.
The Bears still only had eight scholarship players available, and the Shockers clearly looked like the fresher team in the final minutes.
“It was great seeing Tyson, but he hadn’t played competitive basketball for years, and contact hadn’t played for months,” Drew said. “So it’s great to get him out there and it would be really good to get him in a practice now. Once he gets in a practice, I know that will put him in a position to help us a lot more because it’s good to be back to eight scholarship guys.”
When you’re shorthanded, it changes everything.
Even with their depth problems, the Bears kept fighting back from deficits and tied the game at 62 with Jake Lindsey’s driving shot and free throw with 3:10 remaining.
But Frankamp answered with a 3-pointer to give the Shockers a 65-62 lead with 2:50 remaining. After Baylor’s King McClure missed a 3-pointer, center Jo Lual-Acuil fouled Rashard Kelly who nailed both free throws to stretch Wichita State’s lead to 67-62 with 1:38 remaining.
Following missed 3-pointers by Lindsey and Nuni Omot, Lindsey fouled Austin Reaves who hit a pair of free throws to seal Wichita State’s win with 12.9 seconds remaining.
“We know defense travels and offense sometimes doesn’t, so that’s something we focus on, locking down on defense and rebounding,” Frankamp said. “That’s been the key to winning so many games on the road.”
While Frankamp scored a game-high 17 points, rugged 6-8 center Shaquille Morris scored 15 points and grabbed three rebounds while forward Darral Willis collected 11 points and six boards for the Shockers.
Manu Lecomte hit three of eight 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Bears while Lual-Acuil scored 13 and McClure contributed 12. With Maston out, Mark Vital gave the Bears a big lift off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds before leaving late with an ankle injury.
“Yeah, Shaq (Morris) fell on it, he’s a big guy,” Vital said. “I’m getting treatment on it, it will be fine. Shaq is a big dude. I hit him one play and bounced right off of him. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to him even harder.’ Shaq is a real good player, he’s real tough and he’s heavy too.”
Both teams had trouble hitting early shots, but the Bears opened up a 17-12 lead when Lecomte drained a 3-pointer midway through the first half. After Frankamp nailed a pair of treys to tie the game at 19, Lecomte drilled another 3-pointer to give the Bears a 22-19 lead.
Baylor took its last lead late in the first half at 29-27 when Vital stole the ball and scored, but Shamet hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Shockers a 33-29 halftime lead. With their offensive struggles, the Bears played catch-up throughout the second half.
“It was a really good team defensively,” Lecomte said. “They’re very systematic and smart in what they do. I thought we did a good job fighting, and the guys kept attacking. They like to get the ball out of the (point guard’s) hands, and then make us work on offense.”
The Bears will make a quick turnaround with Monday’s game against Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor running back Obim Okeke suited out for the basketball team, but didn’t play Saturday. The 6-0, 225-pound Okeke was a four-year basketball letterman at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas who helped the team win three Nevada state titles from 2012-14.
“It was good having O at practice the last two days,” Drew said. “The good thing is Coach (Matt) Rhule’s teams always have great discipline and toughness, and he brings what we need in practice. Defensively, he moves his feet well and obviously he’s physical. Offensively, he’s an intelligent player.”