For many returning to the Wichita State men’s basketball team, the best moment of their basketball career came the last time they played a game at Koch Arena.
Unexpectedly, the Shockers overcame years of adversity in one season to win their first American Athletic Conference championship in their home regular season final. It was the highest of the peaks.
What came next was the lowest of the lowest.
When offered the chance to make a special season one to remember, the WSU offense failed at the worst time of its last two performances of the season – an ugly 60-59 loss to Cincinnati in the semi. – AAC tournament final, then an even uglier performance in a 53-52 loss to Drake in the NCAA tournament.
“I can’t say it’s a bitter taste anymore because so much time has passed now,” WSU center Morris Udeze said. “But just when we lost, man, it was hard to shake.” It’s over now. We are in revenge mode.
For the six newcomers this season, they’ve come to the WSU to build on last season’s smashing success – the conference championship and return to March Madness.
But for the Seven Returners, who suffered together, worked together and beat the odds together day in and day out, there’s a different level of motivation after feeling like last season didn’t have the right end.
In fact, it’s a big reason why the team’s star player Tyson Etienne, the AAC’s pre-season Player of the Year who only scored one point in the loss. of the NCAA, decided to turn down professional basketball to play one more season at WSU.
“We now understand that the stakes get much higher in March,” Etienne said. “I tried to stay as present as possible during this period, but obviously I didn’t have a very good last game. So we just need to stay focused and present, which as a whole team maybe didn’t do the best job of last year. But like all things in life, you have to experience them and learn from them. “
Learning from the gang was a painful process for the Shockers.
Since both games were one point losses, it’s hard for players not to obsess over the little details.
“It definitely resonates with me because I know I missed two free throws in this game (Drake) and we only lost one,” said WSU forward Monzy Jackson. “If I’m just doing my free throws then maybe we’ll win this game.”
In their last two games, WSU has had less than 60 points each time. Against Cincinnati, WSU shot two badly (39.4%) and committed 14 turnovers. Against Drake, WSU shot 3 of 18 from beyond the arc and missed 11 of 22 free throw attempts. In both games combined, WSU scored 0.85 points per possession, almost two-tenths below its season average.
Just a slightly below average offensive outing was all that was needed for WSU to play for a conference tournament championship and advance into the NCAA tournament. Instead, the Shockers had two of their worst offensive performances at the most inconvenient times.
“We’ve been talking about this all summer about how we defended at a high level and kept these two teams under 65 points, but we didn’t win because we didn’t do a good job in scoring, “WSU coach Isaac Brown said. “We have to do a better job of taking wide-aperture shots. We had some good shots, we just didn’t step up and do it. These are the things that we have been working on all summer, just so we can do some grand opening plans. We also have to keep shooting good. “
With the Shockers’ first public screening against an upcoming outdoor competition with a show against Missouri Southern State scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, the turners are excited to return to Koch Arena with fans inside and begin a new journey with what they think is an even better ending.
“I don’t want to put a limit on what I think this team can do,” Etienne said when asked what the team’s expectations were this season. “I don’t mean we’ll do this or that. I just want this team to play games and get out there and have fun and enjoy the moment. Ultimately, we won’t get it back. I just want to let the games show what we can do.