Wichita State advances to semifinals thanks to McDuffie’s career-best 34 points


Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie drives on Temple’s Quinton Rose during the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament. McDuffie scored a career-high in the game.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jamarius Burton was clearly shaken.

Running the point guard duties for Wichita State, Burton turned the ball over on the first possession. On the ensuing possession, Temple’s Quinton Rose pressured him outside the perimeter, and after nearly passing it out of bounds once again, Burton ended up passing the ball off late to Samajae Haynes-Jones with the shot-clock already expired.

Wichita State played two freshmen, Burton and Dexter Dennis to start the game. That’s atypical of a Shocker program, but this year, Gregg Marshall had no choice.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State freshman Jamarius Burton goes up for a layup during the first half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

“As a freshmen, being in this conference tournament, they’re going to have little jitters,” Wichita State senior Samajae Haynes-Jones said. “As the game goes on, they’re going to level themselves and start playing their game.”

Dennis found his footing and slammed a dunk after the first media timeout, and Erik Stevenson, another freshman, put up a long-distance 3-point shot to tie the game at 17 with 11:30 left in the game.

“Myself, Dexter, Jamarius, we’re playing a lot of minutes as freshmen,” Stevenson said ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal. “At this point, I don’t think it’s anything crazy for us.

“We’re used to it, and now we’re just trying to play our best,” Stevenson said.

Dennis ran away with the game with a home-run pass that transitioned into a one-handed tomahawk slam-dunk. The Shockers won 80-74 to advance to the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament. Markis McDuffie had a career-best 34 points in the game.

“We don’t have that hard of a job,” Wichita State sophomore Asbjørn Midtgaard said. “Set a screen for Markis McDuffie and he gets a bucket.”

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie shoots a three-pointer during the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum. It was the first made three-point shot of the game for the Shockers. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Wichita State put itself in an odd position, leading with six minutes left in the first half.  McDuffie blocked a shot on one end and bailed out Wichita State on the other end with two free throws. Yet, in an instant, that lead vanquished.

Temple’s Ernest Aflakpui stuffed Midtgaard at the rim with a highlight-reel block, and the Owls’ leading scorer, Shizz Alston, Jr. swished a 3-pointer. Wichita State felt like it might not recover, but then another surge from McDuffie, ignited by a steal and two transition baskets, put Wichita State back in the game.

Alston, Jr. hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put Temple up 37-35 at the half.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie stretches for a layup during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

That didn’t seem to shake the Shockers much at all. Aflakpui traveled on back-to-back possessions, once in-bounding the ball and another after recovering a rebound. Wichita State took a brief 44-41 lead. And the lead changed hands again. And again. Markis McDuffie hit big shot after big shot.

Aflakpui was called for his third personal foul with 14:57 left in the second half. Wichita State capitalized off its freshmen once again. Burton found Dennis in the corner for a 3-pointer, as the Shockers surged to ahead by four.

Fouls put Temple back in the game. McDuffie kept Wichita State in the game.

Temple’s Ernest Aflakpui blocks Wichita State sophomore Asbjørn Midtgaard at the rim during the first half of the quarterfinal match of the American Athletic Conference tournament.

Dennis scored five consecutive while Temple went on a three-minute scoring drought. Temple’s Quinton Rose fouled McDuffie on a 3-point shot, and two made free throws put Wichita State ahead by seven — it’s largest lead of the game. McDuffie inched closer to his career-high with two more free throws on the ensuing possession, and Wichita State inched closer to avenging a win. The Shockers lead by nine.

Each team had countless mistakes, but none were bigger than when Alston, Jr., was called for a technical foul for comments said to an official with 4:58 remaining in the game. McDuffie tied his career-high with 32 points at the free throw line.

McDuffie intercepted a Temple pass with 2:38 left in the game as Wichita State hung onto a five-point lead. Yet, when the Shockers wanted to score and put away the game, they couldn’t. McDuffie’s shot wouldn’t fall, and Temple’s Aflakpui put the Owls within four with a free throw on the other end. With another foul, Temple put it within two points with 1:25 left in play.

Wichita State went scoreless in the time it most-needed to score. Haynes-Jones scored out of a timeout and the Shockers led by four with a minute in play. Aflakpui fouled Dennis with 40.8 left in play, and Dennis sealed the game with a pair of free throws.

The Shockers avenged a loss that haunted them for months. Temple had previously beaten Wichita State in Wichita in the only regular-season meeting. The Shockers had lead by 11 with 3:36 in play in that game.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy coached possibly his final game with the Owls. Dunphy announced his retirement at the start of the year.

The Shockers have a six-game winning streak, and have won 11 of its last 13 games.

Wichita State will play two-seed Cincinnati in the semifinals of the conference tournament at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State guard Dexter Dennis grabs onto the ball during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).