ANALYSIS: An in-depth look at which plays hurt the Shockers against Cincinnati


Marshall Sunner

Wichita State sophomore Erik Stevenson gets stripped by Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland during the first half of the game against Cincinnati on Feb. 6 inside Charles Koch Arena.

In the second half of Wichita State’s game against Cincinnati on Sunday, sophomore guard Erik Stevenson pleaded to Head Coach Gregg Marshall. He reiterated that he believed Cincinnati’s star player Jarron Cumberland was hurt, and he wanted the Shockers to drive at the senior because he could be a defensive liability.

Marshall didn’t necessarily see Cumberland as hurt, but on separate occasions, the guard could be seen bleeding from his lip and limping to the free throw line after grimacing on the court. But that wasn’t until the three-minute mark, and Stevenson saw a mismatch at halftime. Stevenson kept pleading his case.

“Erik’s telling me the whole half that Cumberland’s hurt,” Marshall said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “‘Let me have the ball at the top. I think Cumberland’s hurt.’ He didn’t look hurt to me, but Erik’s continually saying that during the second half.”

Stevenson may have had a point. Cumberland may very well have been a defensive liability for the Bearcats. At times, the Shockers did attack the senior. Regardless, they were unable to find success — even with his medical mishaps. Here’s an in-depth analysis of WSU’s late-game play on Sunday:


The Overview

At the beginning of the second half, the Shockers were running successful sets. They just weren’t converting on the shots.

In the opening possession of the half, Stevenson was being guarded by Cumberland. He didn’t drive, but made himself available, causing Cincinnati’s Chris Vogt to venture down into the paint in help defense. That left Jaime Echenique wide open, but he couldn’t knock down the three-pointer.

It wasn’t just Echenique who didn’t hit the open shots — it was the whole team. In the second half, the Shockers shot 36% from the field and just 23% from three-point range. But WSU had some success forcing Cumberland to defend, and he ultimately made some mistakes.

Six specific plays with Cumberland as the primary defender before the three-minute mark stood out from the rest. These instances indicate that maybe Stevenson was onto something with his halftime plea. Those six plays (as seen in the video) resulted in seven points for WSU and several open looks.

At the end of the game, however, the wheels stopped turning for WSU. At the 3:03 mark, Cumberland was hit in the face and his lip started to bleed. With 1:57 left in the game, the guard was fouled on a fast break attempt and went down grimacing.

But the Shockers stopped attacking the senior at that point. The late-game execution fell off, with four plays standing out from the rest. These five plays could have changed the outcome of the three-point loss.


2:30 – Jamarius Burton doesn’t look into the lane

With 2:30 left in the game, sophomore guard Jamarius Burton brought the ball up the floor. Unable to find anyone open on the left side of the lane, Burton went right along the three-point line. For a split second, a lane opened up for Burton to drive towards the baseline — but he didn’t.

He settled with handing the ball off to Trey Wade, and WSU came up empty-handed in the posession.

The Shockers got plenty of open looks in the game by driving towards the lane and dishing out to open players. Burton and other guards got away from this late and settled for jump shots instead. Burton’s missed opportunity was a small one, but it could have gone a long ways in a tight game.


1:45 – Burton’s possible backcut

With 1:45 left in regulation, Burton brought the ball up again. He was being guarded by the limping Cumberland. After passing the ball to Wade on the wing, he faded into the corner. Echenique had the ball at the top of the key.

Cumberland was standing flatfooted and straight up in denial. Burton never looked at the paint behind him. If he would have, he most likely would have had a wide-open layup, giving the Shockers what would have been their first lead of the half.

Instead, Echenique kept the ball swinging to Tyson Etienne. Etienne ended up swinging the ball back to the top of the key to Stevenson, who was coming off of a screen. Stevenson caught the ball, turned, and attempted a heavily contested three. He couldn’t connect, resulting in another missed opportunity for the Shockers.


21.3 – Stevenson misses go-ahead 3

Let me have the ball at the top.

It was the same plea Stevenson had made throughout the game — and his time had come.

With just over 20 seconds left in the game, Stevenson got the ball at the top of the key. He had the man he wanted on him. All he had to do was drive. It’s exactly what he had wanted. WSU was down two, and overtime was within reach. But Stevenson didn’t drive.

With 21.3 seconds left in the game — 13 seconds on the shot clock — the Washington native let it fly from deep. The shot clanged off of the back iron and made him 1-7 for the game from three-point range. It was a questionable shot in the announcers’ minds, as well as to Shocker fans on social media. But Marshall didn’t see an issue with it.

“The shot was a little bit contested, but it was a pretty good look for Erik Stevenson,” Marshall said. “He likes to shoot off the dribble. He’s got the ball. Cumberland’s not the best defender in the world. He’s a tremendous offensive player and a winner, but he gets an average contest, but it’s a better look than Elijah Joiner (Tulsa) had against us at the end of the game.”

When asked if the team needs to do something differently in late game situations, Marshall was quick to respond.

“What do you suggest?” he asked. “We could run more sets, but I just don’t know if we’re going to get better shots than we’re getting. That’s my point.”

In the end, though, Stevenson ultimately couldn’t convert. No drive was attempted and he didn’t follow through with his own suggested game plan.


10.1 – Burton dishes to Etienne for 3

With 10.1 seconds remaining, Burton attacked Cumberland yet again. He used a light screen from Wade to get the switch he wanted, drove past Bearcat forward Tre Scott, and dished the ball to Etienne in the corner for a three-pointer.

It was a play that worked to perfection. It cut the lead back to a single point, and the Shockers had a sliver of hope again. But it would be the final bucket of the game.

This is a play that showed that attacking Cumberland one-on-one could be beneficial. The team moved away from this approach in the closing moments, and the deficit couldn’t be overcome with contested jumpers. It’s a play that leaves resounding “what ifs” for a Wichita State team that’s now on the NCAA Tournament bubble.