Zach Brown knew he wasn’t shooting the basketball well, even if he wasn’t sure of the details.
Those are the negative thoughts a player can’t allow to cloud the mind. What matters is that Brown’s four missed three-pointers during Wednesday’s game and his 16 misses in his previous 17 three-point attempts didn’t stop him from doing what shooters need to do when they’re open.
“Coach always tells me to shoot the ball with confidence,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if you go 0 for 100, just keep shooting. I put it up, and Thank God it went in.”
In a game full of shooters, a somewhat-unlikely scorer made the game’s biggest basket in Wichita State’s 87-75 win over Loyola at Koch Arena.
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“Tremendous courage, let’s say, after being 1 for 17,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
Brown’s three-pointer gave the Shockers a 78-71 lead and stopped a 12-3 run by Loyola. Maybe the Missouri Valley Conference isn’t going to roll over for Wichita State. Fans of competition and drama got some of that on Wednesday.
Unlike many MVC games, the Shockers had to play until the end. No clearing the bench with six minutes to play. No fans headed for the exits.
“Every game is not going to be a 20-point win, 30-point win,” WSU’s Markis McDuffie said. “Teams are going to fight. It’s on us to keep playing.”
In the end, Brown’s big shot, two solid defensive possessions and free throws carried WSU (15-3, 5-0 MVC).
“We kind of had it where we wanted it,” Marshall said. “Then, midway through the second half we stopped making free throws, took a bad shot and turned it over once or twice. Then we had a ball game.”
McDuffie led WSU with a career-high 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Landry Shamet added 11 points and WSU made 12 of 27 three-pointers. While the Shockers ended the game with six straight free throws, it missed seven of its 18 in the second half to help Loyola rally.
Milton Doyle led Loyola (12-6, 2-3) with 23 points. Aundre Jackson added 18 and seven rebounds. The Ramblers beat WSU on the boards 35-30, the biggest deficit for the Shockers since minus-13 against Louisville. They made 25 of 55 shots (45.5 percent), best by an MVC opponent this season.
“They’ve got shooters all over the court,” Marshall said. “They’ve probably got shooters on the bench. I’m sure (coach Porter Moser) can probably shoot it.”
Shooters, yes, Moser agreed.
What he needs is a few more defenders. Time and time again his team scored and Moser yelled and begged for a defensive stop. It’s hard to do against the Shockers, especially with a team limited by height and depth. WSU made 12 of 27 threes and shot 53.8 percent from the field, its best in MVC play.
“We’ve got to be deeper defensively,” Moser said. “We get into our bench and mistakes are just everywhere. Therefore, I grind my starters so much.”
After Brown’s shot, the Shockers got their stops.
They led 81-75 when Doyle drove to the basket. WSU’s Rauno Nurger walled up to make the shot difficult and Austin Reaves deflected the ball. Two foul shots by McDuffie gave WSU an 83-75 lead with 49.8 second remaining. WSU’s Rashard Kelly contested Doyle’s jumper and it came up short to protect that edge.
The Shockers led 67-51 in the second half when its defense slipped a bit and the Ramblers got rolling. Doyle’s three started an 11-5 run that cut WSU’s lead to 10 points. Missed shots and missed free throws by WSU helped the Ramblers get closer. A three by Donte Ingram cut the lead to 73-67. Free throws by Doyle pulled Loyola within 75-71 with 4:36 to play.
Brown’s three, a result of WSU pushing the ball after a missed shot by Loyola, gave WSU a 78-71 lead and pulled the crowd back into the game, cheering at home in a rare tight spot. Brown’s free throw, after his rebound, made it 79-71 with 2:48 to play.
“That’s a big shot,” McDuffie said. “I’m happy for people who are confident and stay confident when the games get close.”
Wichita State’s offense overwhelmed Loyola in the first half. The Ramblers can score, but not enough to keep pace with the Shockers. Their lack of size gave WSU free rein to attack inside and the Shockers made 7 of 14 three-pointers on their way to a 49-35 halftime lead.
WSU ended the half making 7 of 10 shots, one a desperation miss at the buzzer. Loyola didn’t make a basket in the final 4:59.
Three free throws by Reaves broke a 20-all tie and started a 9-2 Shockers run that built into more when McDuffie and Frankamp heated up.
The Ramblers, with Doyle stepping up, cut the lead to 37-31 when Doyle went to the bench. WSU made threes on its next three possessions, two by McDuffie and one by Frankamp, to go up 46-31.
Frankamp brought the crowd to a roar with his three, coming on a break after a turnover, for a 15-point lead.
McDuffie scored 13 points in the first half, making all three of his threes. Shamet added 10 points. Darral Willis made all four of his shots to score eight points.
Loyola made 3 of 7 threes and 11 of 22 shots, often finding open shots off the pick and roll. It committed six turnovers, not a bad amount, but WSU cashed those in for 12 points.
Doyle and Jackson, who escaped the WSU big men for layups, both scored 10 points. Guard Clayton Custer fouled three times, limiting him to eight minutes.