Hurricanes top Shockers in road loss

Evan Pflugradt

The Wichita State men’s basketball fell to the Tulsa Hurricanes in the second game of the year Tuesday night, 77-67.

Tulsa’s victory marked the end to No. 9 ranked Wichita State’s streak of seven consecutive victories in the series. The loss Tuesday marked the third regular season loss for the Shockers in three seasons. 

“They got us,” head coach Gregg Marshall said. “Now I have to coach them better.” 

The Shockers struggled to gain any offensive rhythm despite the return of senior point guard Fred VanVleet into the starting lineup. VanVleet rallied together 11 points in the first half. Nine came off three consecutive three-pointers in the final 1:17 of the first half. The late rally put the Shockers up a point at the half. 

VanVleet returned to the floor and played 30 minutes in the loss. Signs of the injury to VanVleet’s hamstring and ankle appeared to be a lingering issue for the senior. 

Senior guard Ron Baker acknowledged the issues with injury in the backcourt.

“[Fred] wasn’t 100 percent tonight, but he will be the first to tell you that is no excuse,” Baker said. 

VanVleet struggled with speed and mobility, lacked a willingness to drive off ball screens and instead settled for contested threes. VanVleet missed back-to-back three-point attempts on the same possession, which opened the gap for the Hurricane. 

Wichita State struggled with depth in the backcourt filling in for VanVleet. Baker continued to run the point guard duties when VanVleet was sidelined. Baker played almost without break, a total of 39 minutes. 

Baker led all scorers with 23 points on 8-18 shooting, 3-9 from three-point range. Baker picked up four steals — two steals came on back-to-back possessions under the final two minutes of play. The senior guard battled until the end of the game, diving into the first row of the stands for a steal, ultimately ruled out of bounds. 

The bench was scoreless until the 11-minute mark in the second half. 

“We have to teach these young guys to be more productive,” Marshall said. “They have to understand what it means to wear Wichita State on their chest.” 

Tulsa showed its experience. The Hurricane debuted a starting lineup of five seniors, a notable amount of experience in their rotation made up of nine seniors, five juniors and two freshmen. The Hurricanes had eight players play double-digit minutes, seven of them seniors.  

Senior Shaquille Harrison led the Hurricane with 20 points on 6-10 shooting. Harrison’s mobility and eagerness to drive the ball made him a challenge for the Shockers to contain. Harrison was a presence in the paint and on the perimeter where he was 2-3 from three-point range.  

“Harrison attacks the goal,” Marshall said. “I love the way he drives to the basket.”

The Hurricane challenged the Shockers with a small lineup of veteran guards that challenged the pace of the game. 

“They’re starting basically three point guards,” Baker said. “They love to run.” 

The Hurricanes challenged ball pressure on the young second unit of WSU. The Wichita State bench finished with eight points on one field goal while committing five turnovers. 

Anton Grady sparked some life in the offense for Wichita State in the second half. Wichita State ran a 13-0 run over the Hurricane from the final minute of the first half into the opening minutes of the second. Grady led the run scoring the first six points of the second half. 

Grady found ways to battle in the low post, draw contact, get to the free throw line and draw pressure off his guards. Grady posted 18 points. The senior forward even found his way outside the perimeter where he was 1-3 from three-point range. 

Riding on the heels of its injured point guard, the Shockers followed, showing signs of fatigue. The Shockers fell into a string of desperation threes, pulling up from three-point land on seven consecutive attempts. The Shockers shot 30 percent from the three-point-line, 8-26. 

While it will go down as an upset for the Shockers being topped by the Hurricanes, Tulsa shouldn’t be downplayed in any sense. Tulsa finished runner-up in the AAC last season. The victory over WSU marked their first over a ranked opponent since 2003. The Hurricanes knew a victory Tuesday night could define its season — the team played to win. 

Now the Shockers will shift their focus to a matchup back at home against in-state rival Emporia State. While Marshall expects to pick up his 400th career win Saturday, the bigger focus remains on returning VanVleet to full health. 

Wichita State will look to find ways to rest the injured senior before they depart for the Advocare Invitational in Florida and the first game against Southern California on Nov. 26. 

The Shockers take on the Emporia State Hornets at 2 p.m. Saturday at Charles Koch Arena.