The Wichita State Shockers had a little scare on Tuesday night, but Greg Marshall's team was able to pull out its 10th win of the season by holding off a scrappy Alabama Crimson Tide team, 72-67. Foul trouble limited Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, but thanks to 26 points from Cleanthony Early, the No. 11 Shockers were able to stay undefeated.
Trevor Releford was a problem from start to finish, notching 22 points and six assists to overcome a rough outing by Retin Obasohan (2-for-10, 8 points). He got into the lane, hit the three, and found the open man for buckets for Anthony Grant's club as it looked to pull off a signature win at home. Rodney Cooper had 14 off the bench to support Releford.
A back-and-forth affair, the game came down to little plays that Wichita State was able to capitalize on. Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter each pulled down an offensive rebound on a Shocker possession in the last minute, the former extending the possession while the latter rebound produced a tip in that gave Wichita State a three-point lead with 34 seconds to play. On the other end, Alabama got two tries at the basket as well, but Cooper and Obasohan came up empty on their jumpers and the Shockers were able to ice the game from the line.
This game gave us the opportunity to see what kind of depth Wichita State has. With VanVleet, Baker and Early all with two fouls for the last 5:56 of the first half, the playmaking load fell to Cotton, Carter, Evan Wessel and Nick Wiggins. That unit played admirably and kept the Shockers' lead heading into the break.
Does this mean that Wichita State is going to run through every game the season without breaking a sweat? Hardly. Alabama is a very athletic team that will make life difficult on for some in the SEC, but that was all this game was for the Shockers -- difficult. Final Four teams rarely waltz through the regular season. Instead, they take their lumps, learn their lessons, and come out of the spin cycle in March with a ready-for-anything attitude.
This was a good test for Wichita State, and the Shockers passed.