‘We came up short:’ WSU’s disappointing season ends with first round exit in Fort Worth


Rachel Rudisill / The Sunflower

Tyson Etienne reacts to a missed 3-pointer during his game on Marc. 10 in Fort Worth, Texas. Etienne went 2-for-8 from the 3-point line.

FORT WORTH, Texas — After a season filled with heightened expectations, Wichita State’s disappointing 2021-22 season came to a close on Thursday in the first round of the AAC Tournament. 

Six months ago, the Shockers were hopeful and looking to build off their regular season title from last year but nothing ever seemed to click throughout the season. As a result, WSU recorded its lowest finish since they joined the American, along with a first round exit for the first time in the AAC Tournament.

“Overall, I’ve got to do a better job,” Head Coach Isaac Brown said. “I know these guys will fight, they won a championship last year, we didn’t win a championship this year, we’re never happy not being in the postseason. We’ve got to do better, I’ve got to do better as a coach. I’ve got to get these guys to play harder.”

Despite returning seven key players from last year’s championship roster, the Shocker offense never seemed to click. Tyson Etienne struggled to repeat his AAC Co-Player of the Year performance from a season ago, with his scoring average dipping from 16 to 14.9 points per game. 

In Thursday’s 73-67 loss to Tulsa, WSU shot 37% from the field, with multiple scoring droughts sandwiched throughout.

“I’ve got to do a better job on making sure the ball moves,” Brown said. “I thought earlier in the season we moved it a lot in our ‘bounce offense’ but we still weren’t scoring the basketball. We’ve got to do a better job of turning down a good shot and getting a better shot.”

The Shockers’ first round exit came without one of their most important pieces, Craig Porter Jr., who was sidelined with a pulled groin. Tyson Etienne shifted to the point guard position in the loss and struggled to create offense for himself, going 5-for-16 from the field.

Ricky Council IV started in place of Porter but picked up two fouls early, leading to a 34-24 halftime deficit. Council helped lead a second half charge, scoring 16 of his 19 points after halftime.

“Just learning from last year when I wasn’t playing as much, when I finally got in the rotation I was going to help the team a lot, which I felt like I did but I also wanted to win,” Council said. “That didn’t happen.”

Junior Dexter Dennis makes his way down the court on Mar. 10 against Tulsa. Dennis put up 10 points going 3-for-8 in the field. (Rachel Rudisill)

Council was one of the major bright spots this season, after being awarded with AAC Sixth Man of the Year on Thursday. The Durham, North Carolina native will now be entering a pivotal offseason for his future.

“This offseason is going to be big for me and whatever I decide to do forward,” Council said.

Although the Shockers were inconsistent throughout the year, the team still felt confident in turning the season around before entering Fort Worth. WSU knew it was a tall task but was prepared to win four games in four days to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

The Shockers were fresh off a two-game winning streak to close out the regular season creating more optimism.

“Ever since Saturday, our last regular season game against ECU, we knew we had a lot of work to do to get in the NCAA Tournament,” Council said. “To do that we had to win four games in four days. Losing in this first round really hurt. Honestly, I expected to get to the championship. We came up short.”

Despite the bittersweet ending to their title defense, Brown said he is optimistic for what the future holds for the program. The Shockers didn’t have a senior on the roster, with five juniors receiving an extra year due to the pandemic. But in the age of the transfer portal, WSU’s roster could see departures in the coming days. 

The team will take the next two weeks off before getting on the road to start recruiting, with sights set on next season.

“We won a championship last year and I felt it was my duty to go out and get some guys to come in and back these veteran guys up,” Brown said. “We had a young team, we didn’t have a senior on the roster. I think we’ve got to add some pieces, I think we have a good nucleus coming back.”