Shockers’ season comes to a close after heartbreaking loss to Drake

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Courtesy of the NCAA

Sophomore Clarence Jackson drives to the basket in WSU’s First four matchup against Drake in Mackey Arena.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – After a three-month journey where the Shockers overcame unprecedented adversity throughout the season, Wichita State’s season came to a close on Thursday as they fell to Drake, 53-52 in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. 

WSU had many chances to win the game, even in the loss. Early on in the first half, the Shockers held multiple double-digit leads while holding the Bulldogs to 10 points through the first 15 minutes. But Drake ended the half on a 10-0 run to cut the halftime deficit to one point. 

The same story played out in the second half with WSU taking a 41-31 lead with 9:25 left to play. Drake once again had the answer and completed the come from behind victory by one point. 

“I felt like we had them in the first half by 10, second half again and Drake just kept making runs and hitting shots against us,” junior Morris Udeze said. “Just give them credit for hitting shots, it happens.”

WSU’s opponent missed a free throw in the final seconds for the second straight game, giving the Shockers a chase to win the game in the final possession. Redshirt senior Alterique Gilbert missed a shot to win the game in the final seconds for the second straight game and Drake escaped with the victory. 

Head Coach Isaac Brown said that the plan was to get the ball to rim on the final possession but still liked the shot that Gilbert took.

I wanted Alterique and Tyson to get at each elbow at the free-throw line,” Brown said. “Whichever side it came off of, I wanted (Dexter Dennis) to sprint up the court, they advance it to you, and we try to get to the rim as quickly as possible. We took a jump shot, they defended it well, just didn’t make it. I mean, we had to get it up.

Leading scorer sophomore Tyson Etienne was held to a season-low one point with Etienne missing all six of his shot attempts. 

Brown credited Drake for their defense on Etienne throughout the game. 

“They did a good job of staying with him,” he said. “He missed a couple of shots. We didn’t do a good job of getting him open. They did a great job on Tyson, slowing him down. But Tyson also did a good job on their 2 guard. That was the difference in the game.”

One of the major bright spots in WSU’s loss on Thursday was the performance of junior Morris Udeze who finished a game-high 22 points. 

Udeze said that he was prepared coming into the game and felt that he was ready to step up in the big moment. 

“I feel like my teammates, my coaches have faith in me, kept giving me the ball,” Udeze said. “I just tried to execute whatever was given and it happened in my favor today. I just want to thank God, coaching staff and teammates.”

Typically down the stretch, Brown likes to play through his guards and the dribble drive offense but he said that the performance of Udeze made him switch up the offense late.

Morris can score the basketball and at the end of the game I like to go dribble drive but I didn’t want to do that,” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure we were executing and getting the ball to a guy that could score and every time we threw it in there he scored it.” 

Just as they did against Cincinnati last weekend, the Shockers let Drake hang around which proved costly on the biggest stage. 

The Shockers’ season ends with a 16-6 record and an American Athletic Conference regular season championship. But the one thing that came back to bite WSU in their last two games was their inability to close out games. 

We just let them hang around,” Brown said. “In the first half, we got up 11, had a couple turnovers and they made a few shots. Even though we went into the half with a one-point lead we came out the second half, we put the first half behind us. We got a 10, 11-point lead in the second half and we just didn’t do a good job. They stepped up. They made some threes, they hit some timely baskets and they were the better team tonight.