Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds turned out to be the biggest difference of the game between Wichita State and Saint Louis. The Shockers executed in the clutch as the clock wound down, and the Billikens had some unfortunate breaks and poor play which gave the Shockers the 70-65 victory over Saint Louis.
Wichita State was led by Ron Baker, who scored 22 points shooting 7-10 on the day. Cleanthony Early was limited in the first half, but ended up with 12 points and made a few key buckets down the stretch. Saint Louis was led by Dwayne Evans who scored 18 points, 16 in the second half. However, the clutch play by the Shockers was the difference late in the game.
The Shockers were up late when they fouled Saint Louis’ Jake Barnett, who missed one of his two free throws as the Shockers clung to a one point lead with 30 seconds left. The Shockers broke the Saint Louis press and foundCleanthony Early, who dunked the ball for a three point lead with 15 seconds left. Barnett heaved a three pointer with 12 seconds left, but it was partially blocked by a Wichita State player. The Billikens had to foul, and Fred VanVleet made two clutch free throws giving the Shockers the final tally.
"It was just a war," said Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall. "That was a great basketball game between two very, very tough teams. It ended with us up five. I’m just glad that it was a forty minute game and not a forty-three minute game because their run was coming next."
Scoring runs were the story line throughout the game. After Saint Louis made the initial blow, Wichita State would punch right back and it began to resemble a heavy weight title fight. Blow after blow, but in the end the Shockers hit a bit harder at the end of the game.
Saint Louis started the game off hot with 8-0 run thanks in part to a couple of early three pointers by Mike McCall. The Shockers though would not be scared by SLU’s early shooting. After the second media timeout, the Shockers would make a 17-0 run to gain a 24-16 lead with about four minutes left in the first half.
The Billikens were going into cardiac arrest until a 9-0 run shocked them back into the game. Austin McBroom scored five big points reclaiming the lead for the Billikens with 2:12 left in the first half.
The next two minutes were a dogfight with some impressive dunks by Dwayne Evans and Cleanthony Early, but Rob Loe’s late putback gave the Billikens a one point lead going into halftime. The Shockers had lost the first battle, but would win the war in the second half.
Dwayne Evans came out on fire in the second half scoring nine of the Billikens first 16 points. Ron Baker, responded to every punch, though, hitting shot after shot to keep the game close. However, with 6:40 left in the game, it appeared that the Billikens were beginning to pull away as they slowly gained a 58-51 lead.
Wichita State would respond with their own 9-0 run to reclaim the lead at 60-58. Jordair Jett made a two key buckets, but the Shockers responded to tie the game up at 63-63 with 2:16 left in the game.
With 58 seconds left, Baker made a bucket to put the Shockers up 66-64 after a blown assignment by the Billikens defense. The Billikens drove down the floor missing two shots, but collecting their own rebounds. They attempted to inbound the ball, but Jake Barnett was fouled. Barnett missed the front end of his free throw attempts and the Shockers broke the Saint Louis press to close out the game.
"It was a hard fought game," said Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews. "You really had to earn everything from playing Wichita and they had to earn everything playing against us."
For the Shockers, this concludes an important two game stretch for them, defeating BYU in the Hall of Fame Classic and then collecting a huge road win against Saint Louis. They go to 8-0 on the season and will likely rise to the top 10 in the AP and Coaches Poll when they are released on Monday.
For the Billikens, this is their second loss of the season. Their first loss came against No. 10 Wisconsin early last week. The players described it as a huge missed opportunity.
"You can only miss so many opportunities to get a statement win," said Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans. "I think we are playing well, but we got to pull one of these out."
This was a war, but in the end the Shockers delivered the final blow and finished Saint Louis to end this hard fought affair.