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Wichita State Needs Overtime, Late Putback to Earn 80-79 Win Over Hawaii in Diamond Head Classic

Rashard Kelly fought through a sea of Hawaii jerseys to put back an offensive rebound in overtime and help Wichita State escape an upset at the hands of host Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Vulnerable, Hesitant, Tentative. Winners.

Tell me if you have heard this one before. Down late in a tight game, the ball doesn't go to the main scorer for Wichita State, but finds its way into Fred Van Vleet's hands. The long 3-pointer goes off the mark.

But this story has a different ending, one where Rashard Kelly fights through a mass of Hawaii players to grab the rebound and put back in an ugly basket. Yes, in this version of that story, Wichita State wins, an 80-79 victory over a Warriors team that gave everything in trying to pull the upset.

Throughout the Shockers locker room, there has to be some questions about how they managed to pull this one off. This was not #playangry. This wasn't even #playannoyed.

Sure there were the glares that the Shockers players gave to the referees during the game as the whistles seemed to always go against them. Some of the icy stares were warranted, some weren't.

Those looks could have just as easily been turned inward. Wichita State did not look itself in this one ... if you are judging this team based on last year's model.

This is a new team though, and this team has flaws. They are still stacked with veteran talent that knows how to play. That talent is also helping to break in a number of players who haven't quite picked up on the precision that so marked the play of Wichita State on the way to 35-1.

That is why Wichita State was seeing fouls that they never see. They were late switching on defense. They were late coming down into the lane to stop a drive. They were just out of position, helping a little extra in places where they didn't need to help before.

The killer instinct that this team had is still there, but the prey drive is dampened. You will still see Van Vleet take that shot, and even make it as he did in overtime for what looked with 38 seconds left like the game winner.

You will still see Ron Baker give everything to get to the basket -- and let's be honest, be more effective at it this season as he has obviously gotten bigger and stronger in a quest to play basketball after he is done at Wichita State.

It just takes a little more to get them going and play with desperation and single-minded focus for that win.

This is a team that shot just 6-for-25 from 3-point range, taking the long shot way more than ever should be necessary from them. It isn't a kick out option and clean look. It is a clock-winding-down-someone-get-the-shot-up-ahhhh attempt.

Meanwhile, the Shockers allowed Hawaii to make them look silly on the perimeter defensively. The Warriors went 10-for-23 from behind the arc, and every single one that went in seemed to come from a wide-open Hawaii player. The Shockers were just a step too far behind to get their hand up.

That makes it semi-ironic that it was a Baker hand on a Negus Webster-Chan attempt late in regulation that might have saved the Shockers from the loss and given them an extra five minute to pull it together. Not that anything in overtime looked like pulling it together other than the Van Vleet almost dagger.

Hawaii made it look that bad even with two of its best players, Isaac Fleming (17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, and 3-for-4 from three) and Stefan Jankovic (12 points, two blocks), on the bench after fouling out (the Jankovic 5th foul being one of those phantom, makeup calls for an earlier brutal miss).

Wichita State is not perfect this season; they have already lost to Utah. Wichita State is not perfect this season, and we have no reason to expect them to be again.

Perhaps they will learn more from these battles than they ever did from a 20-point cruise control win last season.

Or maybe it will just help to reset our unreal expectations for a team that deserves to be judged on its current composition and not constantly reference the team that was perfect.

At the end of the day, this is a team that is 10-1, and has wins over Alabama, Seton Hall and Memphis. Their lone loss came in overtime, by a single point to a team that could be contending for the PAC-12 title.

They are good, possibly great, most definitely a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But like any team not named Kentucky this season, they are vulnerable. They just overcame that Tuesday night to earn a win. We should all be OK with that.