Shockers drop first conference game to No. 11 Houston

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Courtesy of Andy Yanez/ The Cougar

Wichita State men’s basketball fell at the hands of Houston, 70-63, on Thursday. The Shockers are now 6-3 on the season and 2-1 in conference play. 

The first half was close throughout but the Shockers’ were able to take the lead at halftime, in large part due to a 11-5 run over the final five minutes of the half. 

Sophomore guard Tyson Etienne said that WSU’s intensity out of the gates was key in building a six-point halftime lead. 

“We were playing aggressive, matching their intensity,” Etienne said. “They’re a tough team but we’re also a tough team. We didn’t back down, this game is full of adversity. I felt that we were able to weather the storm in the first half. ”

The Shockers were able to continue that momentum into the second half, scoring the first four points and building up a 10-point advantage. From that point on, the Shocker offense struggled, missing nine consecutive shots and turning the ball over four times in a seven minute span. 

Houston capitalized on WSU’s struggles, going on a 16-0 run to regain the lead. The Cougars went on to outscore the Shockers 45-32 in the second half.

“There’s going to be nights when you can’t make shots,” Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said. “That’s going to happen again. There’s going to be nights where you have 10 straight possessions where you can’t score but in order to win on the road you have to defend, rebound and play with toughness. We just can’t allow our offense to affect our defense.”

The 45 points that Houston scored in the final 20 minutes were the most points allowed in a half by the Shockers this season. 

Brown said that the team’s defensive effort is something that they can always control even when the offense is struggling. 

“You can’t control whether the shots drop or not but you can always control your effort on defense, talking, being in the right spots,” Brown said. “I think we’ll bounce back from it, learn from it. I think that’s what was going on.”

Despite the Shockers’ struggles offensively during the Cougars’ 16-0 run, the team remains confident in its shot selection. Houston possesses one of the top defenses in the country, particularly on jump shots which played a factor in the second half. 

“We just couldn’t make some wide-open shots tonight,” Brown said. “Again, we want those guys shooting when they’re open. We’ve got to do a better job of distributing, we didn’t have as many assists as we needed. Those were the same shots as against Ole Miss. Those guys defend shots well and that kind of bothered us.” 

The last time WSU traveled to Houston the Shockers suffered the worst loss in the Gregg Marshall Era, losing 76-43. 

In that matchup, WSU only scored 18 first half points but this time around the program was much competitive. 

“That was huge for us,” Etienne said. “That’s a top-ten team in the country right now and we showed that we can compete with them and a couple of things go the other way and we’ll come out with the win. I’m encouraged by that and my teammates played a hell of a game.”

Earlier this offseason, Houston was picked as the favorites in the conference and with that comes some expectations. The Cougars have already made it to the No. 5 spot in the AP Poll but fell down to No. 11 after their loss to Tulsa. 

Cougars Head Coach said that down the stretch they will be getting every team’s best shot. 

“Our program has a reputation, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Sampson said. “Everybody we’ve played. … all these teams are really getting after us.”

The Wichita State Shockers next play on Sunday against Cincinnati (2-6). Tip-off for Sunday’s game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m and will be broadcast on ESPN2.