It was exactly the kind of game Wichita State loves to play.
Ron Baker took the biggest blow when he was walloped in the jaw by a
flying elbow from a BYU player late in the second half, but the
Shockers' star guard calmly made the free throws, spurring his team
on to a 75-62 victory Tuesday night in the championship game of the
"I think it's a lot like our practices," Wichita State coach Gregg
Marshall said. "We don't make a lot of excuses. There's not a lot of
chatter and making excuses. You just have to play."
The Shockers (7-0) did that best when it mattered most.
Baker finished with 23 points, including six straight free throws
down the stretch. Fred VanVleet hit two late 3-pointers and finished
with 12 points, while Cleanthony Early also had 12.
"I feel like our team got tested the most in this game," Baker said.
"Being down at half is tough for some teams, and we like to pride
ourselves in second halves."
Wichita State was clinging to a 68-62 lead when Baker was popped by
BYU's Nate Austin, who was given a flagrent-2 foul and ejected from
the game. Baker made both free throws with 45.3 seconds left, and
then two more when he was fouled with just more than 30 seconds
The Cougars (5-2) were then hit with a technical foul on their bench
for protesting a series of calls, and Baker tacked on two more free
throws to put the game out of reach.
"It was a hard-fought game and both teams obviously were playing to
win the championship there, and I think it came down to a few plays
there late in the game," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Give Wichita
State credit. They hit a couple big shots and came down with a
couple big rebounds."
Meanwhile, the Cougars didn't make a field goal for the final 8½
minutes, and were just 6 of 30 from the field in the second half.
BYU missed all 10 of its 3-point tries after the break.
"I don't think we were maybe attacking the rim as much as we wanted
to, but they did a good job defensively, too," said Matt Carlino,
who led the Cougars with 21 points. "Give them credit."
Tyler Haws finished with 17 points for BYU, though he was just 3 of
15 from the field. Eric Mika had 10 points and Austin pulled down 12
"That's a very tough ballgame against a very, very good basketball
team," Marshall said.
[to top of second column]
As evenly matched as the teams were much of the
night, both had long stretches of dominance in the first half
before BYU emerged with a 36-34 lead at the break.
The Cougars, relying on a vexing zone defense, frustrated the
Shockers over the first 10 minutes and used a 13-2 run covering
about 5 minutes to take a 21-8 lead.
Eventually, the Shockers started to have success shooting over
top of the zone and the Cougars cooled off. Nick Wiggins curled
in a 3-pointer, Tekele Cotton added one of his own and the
scrappy Shockers roared on a 20-2 charge that ignited a partisan
crowd inside the Sprint Center.
By the time Darius Carter finished it off with a bruising basket
inside, the Shockers had taken a 26-23 lead — their first since
the opening minute of the game.
It remained a back-and-forth game throughout the second half as
the more physical Shockers tried to pound away inside and the
suave, sweet-shooting Cougars peppered away from the outside.
The Shockers eventually took a 57-53 lead when VanVleet knocked
down a 3-pointer from the corner with 5½ minutes left, but Haws
— held to four points in the first half — immediately took it to
the rim and was fouled. He calmly made both free throws.
In fact, most of BYU's offense down the stretch came from the
foul line, where the Cougars at one point scored six straight
points. But they had also gone cold from the perimeter, while
VanVleet scored on an assortment of 3-pointers and mid-range
jumpers to extend Wichita State's lead.
Carter slashed to the rim with 1:30 left to make it 68-61, and
after Carlino made one of two free throws for the Cougars, he
missed a good 3-point look from right in front of his bench.
As chants of "Let's go, Shockers!" echoed throughout the
building, Baker was walloped by Austin at the other end of the
floor. That began Baker's run of free throws that clinched the
"To this point, this is the best team we've played," Marshall
said, "and they certainly passed with a high mark."
Press; DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer]
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