‘Our lives are on the line:’ Houston steals double overtime thriller from Wichita State

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Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower

After junior Dexter Dennis scores a two point shot, sophomore Tyson Etienne cheers. Dennis had nine points and 11 rebounds; Etienne with 15 points and five rebounds.

Wichita State was handed another gut punch on Sunday, a feeling all familiar to the team this season.The Shockers battled with No. 14 Houston, but ultimately a last second dunk in double overtime was the deciding blow.

After junior Craig Porter Jr. tied the game up at 74 with a stepback three in double overtime, Houston went the length of the floor and J’Wan Roberts converted the game-winning dunk with 1.8 seconds left. 

The Shockers looked to be on its way to their second season-defining win against Houston in as many seasons. Last year, the Shockers upset No. 5 Houston, which catapulted them into first place in the AAC and helped seal their first AAC regular season championship. But on Sunday afternoon that magic fell two points short.

After a successful shot by junior Craig Porter Jr, the men’s basketball team cheers on the sidelines. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

With Sunday’s loss, the Shockers have clinched their first losing season since they joined the American. With the chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament diminished, the Shockers know how important gaining momentum ahead of next month’s conference tournament is. If WSU wants to make another trip to the big dance, they’ll need to win it all.

“Obviously we wanted to come out victorious, we never play a game to lose but that gives us a lot of confidence going into these next games,” sophomore Tyson Etienne said. “We’ve got to keep as much momentum as we can heading into the conference tournament. That’s where our lives are on the line.”

Photos from Wichita State versus Houston

Porter played his best basketball during the five-minute double overtime period, scoring eight of his 17 points. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists.

The junior point guard is playing his best basketball in this recent stretch, reaching double figures in three of the past four games. Porter said he just wants to do whatever he can to get the Shockers back on track, whether that’s scoring or running the offense effectively.

“It wasn’t anything special,” Porter said. “It was just overall just trying to give my team whatever we needed to compete. Our big focus is turning this thing around and getting on the right direction, especially heading into the conference tournament.”

The Shockers battled back multiple times throughout the overtime periods, erasing a four-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation and in the first five-minute overtime period. Both times the Cougars had a chance to win it but fell short as the buzzer sounded. 

Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson credited WSU’s heart in a game that saw 50 total minutes of action.

“Can’t say enough about Wichita State’s kids though,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “One team walked away happy tonight but their kids fought their hearts out. Wichita State could’ve easily won today’s game but they didn’t.”

Freshman guard Ricky Council IV was inserted into the starting lineup for Sunday’s loss, after coming off the bench in the last seven games. Council recorded his second career double-double and finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

Head Coach Isaac Brown had been committed to starting Joe Pleasant for much of the season but decided to change things up ahead of the matchup with the Cougars.

“Ricky’s in every game the last 15 minutes so it’s just like he’s the starter,” Brown said. “It doesn’t really matter who starts, it matters who finishes the game. I wanted to get him in as an extra ball handler because I didn’t think we were handling the ball as well as we needed to. So, with him being on the floor, it gets me another handler.”

After securing several free throws for Wichita State, freshman Ricky Council IV meets head coach Isaac Brown on the court. (Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower)

The Shockers will continue their tough schedule, with a road matchup against Memphis next Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.

If WSU falls to the Tigers, they will record the most conference losses since they joined the AAC. The Shockers will also clinch their lowest finish in the American with a loss.

“We’ve got to put together 40 minutes,” Brown said. “When we go to Memphis, nothing we did against Houston is going to matter. We’ve got to go over there and compete like we did tonight.”