Shockers escape with one-point victory over Central Florida


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Wichita State Tyson Etienne dabs up Alterique Gilbert during the game against UCF at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 30.

Wichita State narrowly escaped with a victory on Wednesday, defeating Central Florida 61-60. The Shockers improve to 12-4 on the season and 8-2 in conference play with the win. 

With just under a minute left in the game, WSU held a one-point lead and senior Alterique Gilbert nailed a crucial three-pointer to push the Shockers’ advantage to four points with 28.7 seconds remaining. 

Gilbert did not practice on Monday and did not participate in Wednesday’s shootaround because of a migraine headache and his playing status was up in the air. Gilbert came off the bench in the contest and delivered 17 points including a season-best three triples in the victory. 

“He sucked it up, got hydrated, came off the bench with a great attitude and gave us some great minutes,” Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said. “I’m so proud that Alterique handled it the right way. He stepped up and made some big baskets for us tonight.”

UCF had a chance to win the game after a WSU turnover with 8.0 seconds left. Darrius Perry, who finished with a game-high 27 points, missed the game-winning shot just before time expired sealing the victory.

Brown said the plan for the final possession was contesting the shot without fouling. 

“I just didn’t want to pick up a silly foul and send them to the free-throw line. The game plan was everybody stay with their man, keep (Perry) in front and make him shoot a contested shot. 

“That’s what Alterique did, he kept him in front, he didn’t give him an angle for a layup and the kid stepped up and missed a shot that was contested.”

Leading scorer Tyson Etienne only scored five points in the victory, but the supporting cast picked up Etienne in the victory. Dexter Dennis finished with the first double-double for WSU this season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. 

Coming into Wednesday’s game, WSU was one of 10 teams in the country that hadn’t had a player register a double-double this season. 

“That’s just one thing we noticed at the beginning of the game,” Gilbert said. “They were frenzying Tyson off the ball screens, not really helping a lot off of him, so we knew someone else had to step up and hit big shots. I think Dexter did a great job of that. I think it was a great, overall team effort. It’s always tough winning on the road.”

WSU’s rebounding struggles continued against the Knights, as UCF collected 14 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Shockers by four. WSU is giving up the 15th-worst offensive rebounding percentage to its opponents, according to KenPom. 

Brown said rebounding is something the team is working on improving.

“We’ve got to get better on the glass, it’s one thing we’ve got to get better at,” Brown said. “Right there, down the stretch, I felt like we made some plays. We’ll just keep chopping wood and getting better at it.”

The Shockers are now out to its best start in conference play since joining the American Athletic Conference with this victory.

Brown credited WSU’s bench to the 8-2 start in AAC play. 

“I think that’s why we’re winning,” Brown said. “The guys on the bench aren’t playing the minutes they want to play but they have a good attitude every day in practice and they go so hard and that helps the guys that start. Every night we’ve got someone different coming off the bench that gives us big minutes. Those kids just keep battling, keep fighting and they stay together.”

The Shockers will travel to Dallas on Sunday to take on Southern Methodist. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.