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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Men’s basketball’s season ends in the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament against UAB

Kristy Mace
Dalen Ridgnal attempts a 3-point shot during the second half on March 15. Wichita State fell to UAB in the third round match of the AAC tournament.

Playing in its third game in three days, Wichita State men’s basketball concluded its season against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 72-60, in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Shockers met UAB once this season on Feb. 28 in Birmingham, where Wichita State bested the Blazers, 74-66, after holding off a late Blazer charge in the second half. 

Redshirt junior guard Harlond Beverly made an uncontested 3-pointer to start Wichita State off, as the Shockers took an early 7-6 lead before the first media timeout. 

The first 10 minutes of the half were physical, as UAB junior Alejandro Vasquez was ejected from the game after punching redshirt sophomore Isaac Abidde, which led to a confrontation that led to both teams getting double technical fouls. 

After further review, the officials upgraded Vasquez’s to a Flagrant 2. Vasquez averaged 18 points in his last four games. 

Wichita State opened a three-point lead with five minutes left in the half, 25-22, on a layup from junior forward Kenny Pohto. The Shockers fell behind after tying it at 27, and after a back and forth the Blazers kept the lead, 31-29.  

A Beverly alley-oop from junior guard Bijan Cortes tied it up again at 31 with under 1:30 left. UAB took the lead going into halftime on a pair of free throws, 33-31. No team led by more than three points during the first half.

The Blazers furthered the lead in the second half with a jump shot from sophomore Efrem Johnson but Wichita State responded with an alley-oop from junior center Quincy Ballard to make it a two-point game, 35-33. 

The Shockers tied it up at 38 on an offensive rebound and putback from Ballard with 17 minutes left. 

UAB took a four-point lead on a second-chance layup and live ball turnover, courtesy of Cortes, which the Blazers capitalized on to make an alley-oop, 42-38.

Wichita State trailed the majority of the second half until junior guard Xavier Bell scored six consecutive points, putting the Shockers ahead, 54-52 with a pair of free throws with 6:40 left. 

Immediately after they took the lead, Wichita State entered a scoring drought that lasted two and a half minutes. UAB responded with an 11-0 run in just five possessions that allowed them to take the lead, 63-54 with four minutes left to play. 

The Shockers ended the dry spell on two free throws from redshirt junior guard Colby Rogers with 3:15 left on the clock but by that time it was already too late as UAB held on with a 12-point lead. 

This time around, it was the 14/22 made free throws that allowed UAB to sustain the lead. 

Head coach Paul Mills said that although second chance opportunities did not equate to a huge margin it was the free throw opportunity that aided UAB. 

 “What it did allow is the free throw opportunity, so at the end that’s kind of what the difference in the game was,” Mills said. 

Beverly and Bell led the Shockers with 14 points, each. Rogers made 10 on 2-9 from 3-point range, a low for him after averaging 17.5 points in the previous two tournament games.

Bell said the season was not what they expected, but there is always room to grow. 

“As far as this season, it didn’t reflect how we wanted to, but day in and day out everybody came in and just put in the work,” Bell said.

With the season over, Mills completed his first year as head coach for Wichita State. He said that rebuilding for next year is already on his mind. 

“As we get older we’ll have a really experienced team next year,” Mills said. “We’ll find the guys who can bolt us back towards the top and win championships.” 

The Shockers end their season with a 15-19 overall record and just 5-13 in conference play, its ​​first losing season since the 2007-2008 campaign.

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About the Contributors
Melanie Rivera-Cortez
Melanie Rivera-Cortez, Former sports editor
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Former photo editor
Kristy Mace was the photo editor for The Sunflower during the 2023-2024 year. She's majoring in psychology. Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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