Council closes out fourth straight home win

Freshman Ricky Council IV goes up for a lay-up on the South Florida Bulls. Council was the star of the game with 18 points. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

All season long, Wichita State has struggled to close out close games, with their last four losses coming by five points or fewer. But Ricky Council IV had the answers late, scoring 16 of his team-high 18 points after halftime. 

The Shockers defeated USF, 73-69, securing their fourth straight AAC win at home. WSU is now 4-6 in conference play, as they look to climb up the standings and earn a first round bye in next month’s conference tournament. 

“A win’s better than a loss at this point in the season,” junior Dexter Dennis said. “I’m glad we won, the locker room is glad we won so, at this point we’ll take it.”

Council’s play was crucial down the stretch, scoring five consecutive points in the final minutes to get WSU over the hump. Council connected on a step-back three and then used a spin move to finish off a layup during the next possession.

The freshman guard’s recent play has been pivotal in the team’s results. The Shockers are undefeated in the last three games that Council has reached double figure scoring. 

“I said that from the beginning of the season, if Ricky doesn’t have a good game, it’s going to be tough for us to win,” sophomore Tyson Etienne said of Council. “When he has big games like this, big nights where he’s able to step up, put the ball in the rim, we usually come out successful.”

Photos from Wichita State versus South Florida

USF entered the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the country, but went 7-for-18 (38.9%) from deep. Those jumpers kept the Bulls in the game and only down four at halftime. 

Head coach Isaac Brown said their success came from WSU’s lack of pressure on ball screens.

“I felt that our defense was not handsy enough, we didn’t get enough deflections,” Brown said. “Every time the guard came off the ball screen, we didn’t have our hands up and they were throwing darts to guys that can make stationary threes.”

After being blocked in a lay-up and falling, freshman Chaunce Jenkins is pulled up by sophomore Tyson Etienne. The Shockers defeated the South Florida Bulls, 73-69. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

WSU sits in eighth place in the American, after winning the regular season title one year ago. A key reason for the championship was the team’s 10-3 record in games decided by single digits. This year, they’re 7-6 in such games. 

But the Shockers are starting to gain confidence in these close games, evident by winning three of their last four games, all decided by 10 points or less. 

WSU won on Saturday by “winning ugly” and shot 42.4% from the field despite trailing for most of the second half. 

“Obviously we want to have great quality of play every single game but sometimes you’re going to win ugly and honestly I’d rather win ugly than take the loss,” Etienne said. “While I know there’s a lot of things we need to work on and fix, I’m glad we’re able to fix it from a plus in the win column.”

Next up, the Shockers will travel to Cincinnati looking to pick up their first road win in AAC play. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN 2.

“In this league we’ve got to battle for 40 minutes,” Brown said. “We’ve got to put 40 minutes together in order to go on the road and win a basketball game. That’s what we’ll need to win at Cincinnati.”