Shockers look for statement road victory over No. 12 Houston


Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower

Junior Morris Udeze looks for a teammate to pass the ball to after rebounding from Memphis.

The Wichita State offense is looking for answers.

The Shockers are 3-3 in their last six games, including an 18 point defeat to Memphis last Saturday. In those three losses, WSU shot 33.5% from the field and 23.4% on three-pointers. They have only reached 60 points once in those three games.

Over the past four seasons, the Shockers have found ways to win, even if these ways are ugly —  but that hasn’t been the case this year.

Since the 2018-2019 basketball season, WSU has shot 40% or worse and won 21 times – classifying them as “ugly” wins. Those 21 wins rank No. 2 in the country, only behind Saturday’s opponent Houston. 

WSU has shot under 40% in six of its 13 games but have only gone on to win in two of those games. They have also shot under 40% in their last three losses.

“I think in the game, we’ve got to realize what’s a good shot, what’s a great shot. We can’t take quick shots,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “I think a lot of times when you take quick shots, that gets the other team back on offense. Now we’re down on defense having to guard most of the game. 

“So we’re working more on moving the ball, trying to get a better shot and not taking those quick shots where you’re not shooting a great percentage.”

Junior Morris Udeze reacts after suffering an injury against Memphis on Jan. 1 inside Charles Koch Arena. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

Even with the recent offensive struggles, WSU players feel confident that they’ll turn it around, largely due to their reputation. The good news is that even with their NCAA Tournament hopes in doubt, there are still opportunities for quality wins left on the schedule. 

The Shockers currently sit at No. 84 in the NET Rankings, with the past three losses – Memphis (No. 51), North Texas (No. 59) and Kansas State (No. 90) – all possibly finishing as quadrant two home losses. The American offers opportunities to make up for the recent skid, with five schools in the top 75.

“I’m confident because I’ve seen it happen before,” junior Dexter Dennis said after the loss to Memphis. “I think in all my years here we never really shot it extraordinary, but we shot it well enough to win games. I think the defense is the thing that held us down. As long as we can stop them from scoring a certain number and we shoot our regular number, we win most of the time.”

Sophomore Tyson Etienne holds his release during the game against Norfolk State on Dec. 11 inside Charles Koch Arena. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

Sophomore Tyson Etienne is yet to play his best basketball of the season — which can provide fans some optimism for games ahead. After averaging 18.6 points through WSU’s first five games, Etienne has averaged 12.3 points in the last seven games on 34% shooting.

Etienne has traditionally played his best during conference play, with the reigning AAC Player of the Year averaging 17.6 points per game in American play last season.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting him open,” Brown said. “We’ve got to try to get him baskets in transition and get him to the free throw line. Let him see the ball go through the basket. We’ve got to screen for him more. We’ve got to put him off the ball more, so he can get the shots coming off ball screens.”

WSU has a tall task on Saturday as Houston features the No. 11 defense, according to KenPom, which is the highest of any Shocker opponent this year. The Cougars will be shorthanded for this game and the rest of the season with guards Marcus Sasser (17.7 points per game) and Tramon Mark (10.1 points per game) both out for the season. 

Freshman Ricky Council IV shoots a three-pointer against Memphis on Jan. 1 inside Charles Koch Arena. (Sean Marty / The Sunflower)

The Shockers are yet to win on the road against Houston since joining the American in 2017. Brown and WSU are still confident heading into Saturday’s nationally televised contest, looking for a statement victory.

“Eventually we’ve got to show it… We’re playing (back-to-back against) the two teams that were picked to win the league, so it’s going to be hard,” Brown said. “You’ve got to go down to Houston and play well in order to win the basketball game. “

The Shockers will  tip off against the No. 12 Cougars at 11 a.m. inside the Fetitta Center. The game will be broadcast on CBS.