WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — After a pause in the program due to COVID-19 and a losing streak that stretches over a month back to Dec. 22, 2021, the Shockers got back on track with a win over the Central Florida Knights on Wednesday, 84-79.
The game was not for the faint of heart, though, as the Shockers saw a 16-point lead in the first half dwindle down to just four points midway through the second.
Still, a win is a win, and Head Coach Isaac Brown’s team found a way to pull it off for the first conference win of the season.
“That win may have felt better than any win I’ve ever had in my life,” Brown said after the game. “I’m just so excited that these guys battled. It’s been a tough last four games. We’ve had, I think, four games in the last 34 days. I think the time off really helped those guys to focus, to get healthy.”
Freshman guard Ricky Council IV left his mark on the game as he finished with a career-high 30 points in the game. He scored most of his points the old-fashioned way, driving into the lane and drawing contact. He shot half of the 40 free throws that the Shockers took, sinking 16 of 20.
“Great performance. Ricky can really score the basketball,” Brown said. “When I’m talking to Ricky, it’s all about defending, taking care of the basketball, and making sure we can execute. We know we can score. I thought those other three things he did a really good job of tonight. If you can do those things, it makes life easier.”
The Shockers did a solid job of sharing the ball tonight and keeping the turnovers to a manageable number. They committed 12 turnovers and scored on 11 assists. They also forced 16 turnovers for UCF tonight, with nine steals and four blocks.
Senior guard Dexter Dennis was a leader for the team tonight, but just by looking at the numbers, it might be hard to see.
“I mean, the stuff I do is not always going to show up in the stat sheet,” Dennis said. “That’s understood. But as long as we win games, then I don’t, I don’t really care.”
Scoring-wise, the Shockers shot about as well as they could have, finishing the night shooting 40% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc.
Interestingly enough, the Knights shot at a higher clip and attempted more field goals, but they shot a little over half of the free throws the Shockers did, finishing 17-23 from the line as a team.
Central Florida also finished with a higher number on the boards, outrebounding the Shockers 44-35.
The win puts the Shockers at 10-7 on the season and 1-4 in American conference play. Isaac Brown will need his team to build on this win moving forward if they hope to gain any momentum heading into the later part of the season.
While it seems unlikely, basketball is a game of runs, and anything can happen. Wichita State’s record seems to indicate that an at-large bid is out of the question, but each team gets a chance in the conference tournament, and if the Shockers can get on a run late in the season and sneak out of the AAC tournament with a win in the championship, they’ll find themselves dancing.
If the Shocker fan base needs a visual representation, look at Oregon State in 2021. The Beavers finished the season 20-13 and only qualified for the NCAA Tournament because they went on a run in the PAC-12 tournament and squeaked out to claim the conference tournament.
That team advanced all the way to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament.
Easy? Not at all. Possible? Absolutely. And in the world of college basketball, just a little bit of anarchy might be what the doctor ordered for Isaac Brown and Company.
The Shockers will follow up this win with a road trip to Louisiana, where they will play Tulane on Saturday, Jan. 29. The Green Wave defeated the Shockers 68-67 in Koch Arena, and currently sit at 8-9 on the season. That game is set to tipoff at 11 a.m. and will air on the ESPN family of networks.