All-Americans Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker combined for just 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting on Saturday afternoon. Connor Frankamp, the Kansas transfer eligible for his second game, finally hit his first shot as a Shocker … with less than a minute left in the game. Anton Grady and Landry Shamet did not play.
And Wichita State still smacked around No. 25 Utah in the Koch Center, winning 67-50 in a game that the Shockers controlled basically from the tip.
They’re back, guys.
Zach Brown and Markus McDuffie led the way for the Shockers. Brown finished with 14 points while McDuffie added 13, hitting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Perhaps more promising is that, for the second straight game, the Shockers held a likely NCAA tournament team to just 50 points in 40 minutes. On Saturday, their game-plan was pretty simple: pressure Utah’s guards in the half court, make it difficult for them to run offense and double Jakob Poeltl on the catch, forcing someone else to beat them.
Poeltl finished with just five field goal attempts and six free throws. Utah committed 19 turnovers. Not a bad effort.
The Shockers entered the season as a preseason top 15 team, but a hamstring injury to VanVleet was a major reason that they lost four of their first six games. There had been concern that this group had managed to play their way out of at-large contention in the first three weeks of the season, but those doubts have been assuaged. With their point guard back in the lineup, the Shockers landed wins over UNLV and Utah in Wichita this week, and while that certainly does not lock anything up, it does show us just how good this team can be when they’re at full strength.
For Utah, a team that looked like they might be the best in the Pac-12 prior to Saturday, this loss is really concerning. They’ve now played two top 25 caliber teams this season — Wichita State and Miami — and been beaten fairly easily in both games. Jakob Poeltl is a beast, one of the nation’s most improved players, but there’s only so much he can do if he can get the ball in the post or a play run for him.
We knew losing Delon Wright was going to hurt this group.
We saw just how much is hurt today.