Courtesy of Wichita State Athletics
WICHITA, Kan. — Ricky Council scored a game-high 19 points to spark Wichita State to a 64-58 win over South Alabama on Saturday afternoon at Charles Koch Arena.
Down 56-54 with 4:53 remaining, the Shockers finished the game on a 10-2 run to improve to a 2-0.
“Those guys never put their heads down,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “They came together as a team. That shows we have a lot of high-character guys and they all wanted nothing but the win.”
Starting in place of an under-the-weather Tyson Etienne, Council made the most of his second career start, clocking a career-high 30 minutes. He made 7-of-11 shots, including 3-of-4 from deep, and pulled down eight rebounds.
“Ricky was great,” Brown said. “He went in and played big minutes and was able to score some big baskets.”
Qua Grant added 13 points off the bench and converted 2-of-4 from distance.
Morris Udeze grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.
Dexter Dennis stuffed the stat-sheet with seven points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
The Shockers struggled from the field for a second-straight game, hitting just 37.3 percent but made a respectable 8-of-26 from three (.308).
Javon Franklin tallied a double-double for South Alabama (1-1), with 18 points and 12 boards. The Jaguars used just eight players – five of them transfers from Power 5 schools. They shot 44.4 percent from the field but were cold from beyond the arc (3-of-16, .188).
The Shockers won the rebounding battle, 39-34, and limited USA to just five offensive rebounds.
The win was special for Brown, who spent five seasons as an assistant at South Alabama (2002-07).
WSU’s 2-0 start includes two games that were decided in the final minute. The Shockers downed Jacksonville State in Tuesday’s opener, 60-57, on Etienne’s last-second three-pointer.
“Those games help you get into conference – being able to win close games,” Brown noted. “Because in conference you’re not going to be able to blow teams out. You’ve got to operate down the stretch. These two games will us in the long run.”
Wichita State was in control for much of the first half. Grant fed Kenny Pohto in the paint for a quick layup and a 13-6 advantage near the 12:00-mark of the first half, and the Shockers seemed well on their way.
The Jaguars drained five-straight shots over a 3:00 stretch late in the half to make a game of it. Franklin’s basket gave USA its first lead of the night, 27-26, with 2:29 to play in the period. Theo Goncalves finished the stretch with a three.
Grant, who shared the team-lead with eight first-half points, made back-to-back threes for WSU, and the teams went into the half knotted at 32.
USA scored the first six points of the second half – all on dunks – to stake its largest lead of the day, 38-32.
The Shockers answered with their best offensive stretch, outscoring the visitors 14-4 over the next five minutes.
Clarence “Monzy” Jackson started that run with a corner three and ended it with a tip-in for a 46-42 WSU lead near the midway point of the second half.
“Last game he only played three minutes,” Brown noted. “Tonight, he gave us a big spark. He came in and got every 50-50 ball, he knocked down a three, he played tremendous minutes. I tell the guys, it doesn’t matter who starts. Whoever affects the game is doing to be in the game at the end of it.”
Council was also active, sticking a driving layup and later splitting a double-team for a three-point play.
USA mounted a 7-0 run to move back in front, but Council – who had 11 second-half points – drilled a three to tie the game at 49 at the 8:16-mark.
Council drove and kicked to Dennis for a three and a 54-51 edge, but Goncalves answered with one of his own and Jay Jay Chandler made a circus shot in traffic to put the visitors up 56-54 with less than 5:00 to play.
Council’s three tilted the scales back in WSU’s favor with 4:18 to go. It was the last of six second-half lead changes.
Brown turned to a zone defense, and the Shockers allowed just one more basket the rest of the way.
“I wanted to force them to make jump shots,” Brown said. “We couldn’t allow layups. I thought the zone slowed them down. It made them take tough, late threes, and we were able to get rebounds.”
The bounces went the Shockers way over the next two minutes, first when Etienne came up with a loose ball and found Udeze under the goal for two points.
The Shockers’ next possession lasted nearly a minute, thanks to four offensive rebounds. On the last Dennis went up for a contested rebound that ricocheted off his outstretched hand and through the basket for a 61-56 lead with 2:13 remaining.
USA drew within three when Franklin was fouled on a tip-in with 1:19 left but couldn’t convert the 3-point play.
The Shockers forced turnovers on each of the next two Jaguar possessions and padded their lead with free throws. Etienne nailed both ends of a 1-and-1 with 16 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game and Grant added one more for good measure.
- The Shockers improved to 2-0 for the first time since a 6-0 start to the 2019-20 season and for the 14thtime in the last 20 seasons.
- This was the first-ever meeting between the schools.
- WSU improved to 61-3 at Charles Koch Arena against non-conference opponents since the start of the 2011-12 season.
- The Shockers have won nine-straight regular season games going back to last January.
- WSU extended its home winning streak to 11 games – tied for the 17th-longest streak in program history.
- Etienne missed Friday’s practice with an illness and struggled through Saturday, hitting just 1-of-10 shots. When asked if he considered sitting Etienne down the stretch, Brown deadpanned “the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t sit Steph Curry out… I’m going to ride with my best players.”
WSU welcomes another first-time foe, Tarleton State, on Tuesday evening (7 p.m. CT, ESPN+). Coach Billy Gillispie’s Texans are 0-2 but have played in road losses at Stanford and Kansas.