Closer but not close enough: Men’s basketball drops lead battle with Memphis


Kristy Mace

Gus Okafor, a senior forward passes the ball to a teammate.

 By halftime, the men’s basketball team was tied up 40-40 at the half with the No. 2 team in the American Athletic Conference. 

Towards the middle of the second half trading baskets with the Memphis Tigers ended in a 83-78 loss on Thursday. The lead changed 16 times throughout the game. 

“Once we are trading baskets it’s hard to win like that,” senior point guard Craig Porter Jr. said. “I mean because at the end of the day, whoever gets the most layups is going to win. It’s the easy baskets.” 

Senior forward James Rojas led the Shockers in scoring. He scored 19 points in the first half.  

“Honestly they were just playing one on one,” Rojas said. “There wasn’t really much help so I mean I play good just taking my guy one on one and then getting out in transition.” 

In the second half, Memphis started to double team Rojas and sophomore forward Kenny Photo in the paint. This forced the Shockers to kick the ball out to the 3-point line. Wichita State shot 22.2% from the 3-point line against Memphis. 

Ultimately though, head coach Issac Brown said that his team did not get enough stops on defense against Memphis who did capitalize from the arc and in the paint. As a team, the Tigers shot 45.71% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line. 

 “We went to the zone,” Brown said. “We got a couple of stops in that and then all of a sudden they made a couple of timely threes. We went man. Just couldn’t guard them all night. Normally we are a really good defensive team but we have struggled defending them.”

Rojas picked up his fourth foul around the 15 minute mark of the second half and did not come back in until the six minute mark.. He scored zero points in the second half. Brown said he also felt like this was a key difference in the outcome of the game. 

“I thought you know, he guarded the guy well,” Brown said. “Referee made a call and we had to live with it.” 

The Shockers are now 7-8 in the AAC and will play at Tulane on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and KEYN 103.7 FM with Mike Kennedy and Bob Hull. 

After the Tulane game, Wichita State will play at Houston and then finish up regular season play at home against South Florida. 

The men have only won two conference games at home this season. Porter said he and his team hope to change that. 

“I feel like we get a little bit comfortable being at home and I don’t think we have done enough to be comfortable,” Porter said.