Men’s basketball closes regular season with blowout win


Kristy Mace

Gus Okafor, a senior forward, passes the ball to a teammate against Memphis on Feb. 23.

Senior point guard Craig Porter Jr. scored a career-high 24 points in his last game in Charles Koch Arena as the men’s basketball team took care of South Florida 69-49 on March 5.

The Shockers rolled out a starting lineup of Porter Jr., junior Jaron Pierre Jr. and senior forwards Gus Okafor, Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler and James Rojas for Senior Night.

All four seniors accounted for 27 of the team’s 36 first half points.

“It was a special day for our seniors,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “Gus Okafor has been nothing but a high character kid. James Rojas, he’s made improvement throughout the year.”

The first half was a back and forth affair with no team leading by more than eight points. At the half, the Shockers were leading by only three points, 36-33.

Wichita State began to create some distance in the second half through their defense. As a team, they forced seven turnovers and had four steals and 32 defensive rebounds.

“I’m a hooper,” Okafor said. “When my number gets called, I’m always ready to go. Once I’ve seen my first shot go in, I was like ‘I’m good’ and I grabbed a rebound and felt like I was good to go.”

Porter Jr. led the defense with two steals and five blocks. He now has 81 career blocks, which is the most by a guard in school history.

With the second-most total number of blocks and blocks per game in the conference, his teammates, Brown and Porter Jr. himself think he has a case for AAC Defensive Player of the Year.

“I don’t want to use my height as a vantage point,” Porter said. “It’s not, honestly, anybody else in the country doing the things I do on the defensive end. But, if I don’t win it, I’m not gonna be mad. I’m trying to go to Dallas and get those four wins.”

Leading scorer junior Jaykwon Walton was out for the second game in a row with illness but the team expects him back for the American Athletic Conference Championship tournament.

“Hopefully, he’s fine,” Brown said. “I thought other guys gave valuable minutes and that was huge for us and I think all that can do is give those guys confidence.”

With this win, Wichita State has secured the No. 6 seed in the AAC tournament and are set to play No. 11 Tulsa on March 9 at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.