‘The game wasn’t over:’ Shockers utilize late rally to overtime victory over UCF


Wichita State junior Dexter Dennis goes up for a 3 pointer during the game against UCF at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 30.

Wichita State found itself on the brink of possibly its worst loss of the season. With 3:45 left to play, the Shockers were trailing Central Florida by eight points and looked poised to drop a pivotal conference game at the hand of the Knights. 

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave WSU a 7.2% chance of victory but the Shockers were still able to turn it around. With the game waning in the balance, WSU outscored UCF, 11-3 in the closing minutes of regulation, helping to force overtime.

“We just knew as a team that the game was still going on and that we could sweat it out regardless,” sophomore Clarence Jackson said. “We’re a family, so at the end of the day, you have to have your brothers back. If somebody does something wrong, who cares, pick him up. We just knew we had to continue to fight and that the game wasn’t over.” 

Just as they did at the end of regulation, the Shockers trailed early on in the overtime period but found a way to mount a comeback. After UCF took an 84-79 lead with 2:25 left in overtime, WSU rallied to outscore the Knights, 14-4, to pull off the come-from-behind victory. 

Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said that he was impressed with the team’s calmness in these late-game situations. 

“We talked about it during the second half, we talked about it at halftime, we talked about it before the game,” he said. “How bad do you want it? We’ve got to play hard for 40 minutes. Even though it extended longer than 40 minutes, once we got down, those guys just kept battling. In the huddle those guys were like, ‘we’ve got plenty of time, we’re going to come back, everybody stays calm.’”

With WSU finding themselves trailing, sophomore Tyson Etienne said that assistant coach Lou Guidino was key in giving him the confidence to complete the comeback.

Etienne scored 21 of his career-high 29 points in the second half and overtime and was key down the stretch.

“I credit Coach Lou Guidino, he said there’s still a lot of time, a lot of possessions and I feel like that gave me the encouragement that it wasn’t over,” Etienne said. “We just had to go out there and get a stop. That was a crucial point and I think we did that.”

UCF was able to get into their sets easily most of the game and as a result, Brown decided to shake things up defensively. Over the team’s nine-day break, they had been working on a three-quarter court pressure which Brown decided to implement with the game hanging in the balance. 

This pressure helped to change the flow of the game and allowed WSU to mount this comeback.

“I just wanted to change it up,” Brown said. “I felt that we didn’t bother them at all in the half-court. They were able to bring the ball up, they were able to execute everything they wanted and we just couldn’t stop them. So we had to make a change. We did a good job, just trapping them, protecting the middle and we got a couple steals.”

One of the keys to the press being so effective was the insertion of Clarence Jackson into the lineup. 

Brown said that Jackson’s energy can be contagious and was a catalyst to the press being so effective in the second half. 

“Sometimes I feel like we don’t have energy on the floor,” Brown said. “No matter what, he may make some mistakes but he’s out there clapping his hands, going to the offensive glass. He just brings energy and we need that at times. He doesn’t always execute but he always plays hard. That’s what I’m starting to love about that kid.”

Jackson especially stepped up in the overtime period, scoring the team’s first five points in the extra period. The junior college transfer was able to finish the game 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds in 19 minutes. 

Jackson said that he wasn’t phased by the increased playing time against UCF after recently receiving fewer minutes in the rotation.

“I know at the end of the day I’m going to fight until the end, until the last buzzer sounds,” Jackson said. “I trust Coach (Brown) so that was a plus and he gave me the extra boost and energy to know that my coach trusts me in that late stretch.”

With WSU’s victory, they improved to 9-4 on the season and 5-2 in conference play. The Shockers currently sit in second place in the AAC. 

The Shockers will next face off against Tulane on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.