‘No lead is safe:’ Shockers drop fourth straight in four-point loss to Cincinnati


Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower

Freshman Ricky Council IV drives through Cincinnati opposition to shoot the ball on Jan. 16 in Koch Arena.

For the second straight game, Wichita State was unable to close out a win – a common theme early on in this conference season. The Shockers are 0-4 in conference play for the first time since they joined the American in 2017, after blowing back-to-back games they held double-digit leads. 

After losing to Tulane on Wednesday despite holding a 14-point halftime lead, the Shockers struggled finishing out a much needed win on Sunday. Winning close games was a strength for WSU last season, with 11 wins by single digits but this season that hasn’t been the case. 

“No lead is safe right now with us,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “We’re just not scoring the basketball right now. We missed 10 layups, point blank at the rim. In order to win games, the defense is good enough but we’re not scoring the basketball at a high level.”

After a play, some of the men’s basketball team gather to discuss strategy against Cincinatti on Jan. 16. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

Despite the four game skid, the Shockers remain optimistic about turning this season around. During Dexter Dennis’ freshman season at WSU, they started out 1-6. That team finished the season going 9-2, including a trip to the NIT semifinals. 

After last season’s AAC regular season championship, there were lofty expectations heading into this season. The players are confident about turning these losses into wins, similar to the 2018-19 season.

“The only thing we can do is stay positive,” Dennis said. “Our season’s not over yet but it does hurt to take a lot of losses, this many in a row. At the end of the day, we can still turn it around so that’s our focus.”

Dennis – who missed Wednesday’s game due an illness – had a chance to tie the game on WSU’s final possession. The junior guard’s potential game-tying triple fell short as the Bearcats captured a 61-57 win inside Charles Koch Arena.

WSU was much more aggressive on offense than in recent losses, only shooting 10 threes. That stat jumped off the box score for sophomore Tyson Etienne – who finished with a team-high 14 points, taking five of WSU’s 10 triples.

“It means that we did take higher percentage shots, being that they were more two-pointers than three-pointers,” Etienne said. “I still think that we’re a good shooting team and we need to shoot threes more.”

Junior Dexter Dennis goes up for a shot on CIncinatti on Jan. 16 in Koch Arena. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

After each of the last four losses, the Shockers have expressed their confidence in this group figuring out these struggles. Etienne is fresh off an AAC Player of the Year campaign but hasn’t found the same success this year. 

The sophomore guard is averaging a team-high 14.9 points per game but is doing so on 35.1% shooting. 

“I just think it’s about weathering the storm,” Etienne said. “We’ve got to see it through to completion, you never know what might happen. We’ve got 13 more conference games, we could end up going 13-4. As long as the people in that locker room and the people in that office are on the same page and don’t give up on each other, we’ll be fine.”

With the outside noise surrounding the program, the players have preached staying together during this rough patch. The Shocker program has found ways to salvage a slow start in conference play in the past season, never finishing lower than sixth in the AAC.

“In our generation, social media is kind of a thing that goes crazy, the people here are used to winning, I’m not mad at them,” Dennis said. “Just block it out, just be in the locker room with the guys. Eventually things are going to start working for us, we’ve just got to keep coming to work.”

Wichita State will look to snap their four game losing streak on Wednesday at Temple at 6 p.m. In WSU’s five years in the American, they have never won on the road against the Owls.