Wichita State senior Samajae Haynes-Jones has a new nickname.
“Big shot Samaj,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall called his senior guard after Haynes-Jones sealed Thursday’s 65-63 win with a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer.
UConn’s Alterique Gilbert knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 64, which helped identify the Shockers’ defensive collapse in the final 60 seconds of play. But it also put Wichita, and most importantly Haynes-Jones, in a familiar position.
Jan. 30 in Charles Koch Arena, with 13 seconds left and the game tied, Haynes-Jones wouldn’t let anyone else shoot the final shot. He drove underneath the basket and finished a reverse lay-in to give the Shockers a sweet victory. Thursday was no different.
Freshman Dexter Dennis inbounded the ball to Haynes-Jones with 6.4 seconds on the clock, and Haynes-Jones, a blur, blew right past teammate Markis McDuffie. Haynes-Jones missed the screen and threw up a floater. In the next instant, he was dog-piled by his teammates on the sideline.
“It was beautiful,” Marshall said.
Haynes-Jones did more than sink the game’s final shot. His team-high 20 points (12 in the second half) propelled Wichita State to a much-needed victory. Haynes-Jones had three rebounds, an assist, and made four of his nine 3-point shots. He took charges, too.
“He can make plays,” McDuffie said of Haynes-Jones. “For him to go at that speed and get a shot up, it just shows confidence in his game.”
Haynes-Jones took the lead in the timeout, voicing over Marshall. He demanded the ball. Over and over again, Haynes-Jones called for the ball.
“I was like ‘oh man’,” Burton laughed.
Haynes-Jones, this season, has turned into a quiet leader when the Shockers have needed him most. Minus a few off games, he has elevated his play to a whole different level from a season ago, where he averaged just 11 minutes of play. And he’s done it confidently, and humbly.
“It just felt good to get a win,” Haynes-Jones said. “It was a big shot and all, but as a team we worked so hard – to get the win was great.”
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