Shocker set to face off against No. 5 seed Cincinnati Bearcats in Conference Semifinals


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Wichita State players gather during the game against USF at Dickies Arena on Mar. 12.

The Wichita State Shockers beat the USF Bulls in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals in nail-biting fashion, 68-67. Sophomore guard Tyson Etienne scored a game-high 20 points with five rebounds. Etienne’s backcourt running mate Alterique Gilbert scored 12 points on five-for-12 shooting.

With Friday’s victory, Wichita State won all three matchups against USF this season. The Shockers possess a 6-1 record all-time against the Bulls. WSU moves to 16-4 overall for the season.

The Shockers will match up with the No. 5 seed Cincinnati Bearcats after Cincinnati’s 74-71 victory over the No. 4 seed Southern Methodist University in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.

Wichita State shot 10-31 from three-point range in their 68-67 victory. The 31 three-point attempts tied a season-high in three-point shot attempts (at Tulane, March 3) for Wichita State.

In the lone matchup this season, between the Shockers and Bearcats, Wichita State only shot 12 three-point attempts. Despite the low volume in three-point shooting, the Shockers beat Cincinnati 82-76 on Jan. 10. 

Cincinnati is known to rely on their zone defense which may hinder Wichita State’s outside shooting. Cincinnati Head Coach John Brannen said he believes his team has relied on their zone defense down the stretch of their season.

The Bearcats use the zone defense only 15.1% of the time, but opponents are only scoring 0.652 points per possession against it, according to Synergy. That percentage ranks Cincinnati at No. 7 in the country. 

“The zone is turning to be a strength of ours here late in the season,” Brannen said. 

SMU went 10-30 from three-point distance in Friday’s quarterfinal loss to Cincinnati. The Mustangs’ point guard Kendric Davis was effective throughout the game however, scoring a game-high 37 points in the loss.

Shocker fans should expect Cincinnati to push the tempo against Wichita State on Saturday afternoon. According to KenPom, the Bearcats have the second highest tempo on offense, only trailing Memphis. 

“Tempo wise, we’re the fastest offensive team in the league,” Brannen said. “My thing is now we’re making better decisions, we’re playing off two feet, we’re getting to the line, our assist totals are high when we do that in transition, we’re being better in it.”

Brannen said the game plan against the Shockers shouldn’t change from their identity as a basketball team.

“Go make plays,” Brannen said. “Wichita State is going to press us, that’s what they do and we have to be ready for it.”

Cincinnati ranks 126th in the NET rankings and will need to beat the Shockers and win the American Athletic Conference Championship to receive an NCAA Tournament bid. If WSU falls to the Bearcats tomorrow, it would be the Shockers’ first quadrant three loss of the season.  

Tip-off between the Shockers and Bearcats is slated for 2:00 p.m. at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2. The winner of this game will move on to the American Athletic Conference championship game on Sunday afternoon.