Basketball game analysis: Wichita State Shockers win vs. UCF


Ricky Council IV dunks the ball during the second half against Central Florida. Council scored a career high 31 points in the win.

The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita State men’s basketball team finally buried its bad memories at Koch Arena, punctuated by a career-best scoring performance from freshman Ricky Council IV.

Council lived at the foul line, where he did more than half of his work in a career-best 31 points to lead the Shockers to an 84-79 win over the UCF Knights at Koch Arena on Wednesday. It was first WSU win since December 22.

It was the first win for WSU in American Athletic Conference play, as the Shockers (10-7, 1-4 AAC) hurdled a significant mental hurdle by playing with a lead for essentially the entire game. WSU also extended its dominance over UCF (12-6, 4-4 AAC) since joining the conference, as it is now 8-0 against the Knights all-time.

The victory also snapped WSU out of its nearly two-month slump in which it hadn’t defeated a top-200 opponent, according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, since its December 1 win at Oklahoma State. It’s almost fitting that Council was the star of that game, taking over down the stretch and powering the Shockers to the win behind 17 points.

Council was similarly brilliant in attacking and applying pressure on UCF, which drew plenty of fouls and he capitalized on a 16-for-20 performance from the foul line. It was the third-most free throws made in a game in program history and it was the first 30-point scoring explosion since Markis McDuffie did it against Temple in the AAC tournament on March 15, 2019. WSU made 31 of 40 free throws for an above-average 77.5%, but many of those misses happened late to make for some nervy moments.

Morris Udeze started hot and finished with 16 points, while Dexter Dennis added 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one steal in another standout defensive performance.

When UCF rallied to within six on back-to-back three-pointers, Tyson Etienne (2 of 13 shooting, five points) made his only three-pointer of the game and Council followed with a dazzling drive and up-and-under finish to put WSU back up 68-57 with 4:14 left.

Still, UCF wouldn’t fade. Darin Green and Brandon Mahan (team-high 15 points) both drilled jumpers to cut the deficit to six points, but Craig Porter answered with his own step-back well behind the arc for a 73-64 lead with 95 seconds left.

There was some more tense moments late when UCF trimmed the deficit to 83-79 with four seconds left, but WSU avoided a turnover and Dennis made a free throw to seal it.

After averaging 63.5 points in its first four AAC games, WSU exploded for 84 points and 1.18 points per possession. The Shockers made just 40% of their shots, but scored 31 points at the foul line and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds for 14 second-chance points.

Giving up a double-digit lead — this one a 16-point advantage — at home yet again could have been mentally crippling for this group, as five of its previous six losses at home had played out in that exact same fashion.

It appeared the Shockers were on the brink early in the second half, as UCF rallied to within 47-44 with 12:25 remaining but that was as close as it would come in the second half.

That didn’t mean there weren’t nervy moments for WSU, which just kept UCF at arm’s length — between a two-and-three possession lead.

Council was crucial in that, as his baseline drive and soaring dunk electrified the crowd following a scramble for the ball and then UCF committed a turnover on the next possession. It felt like an important swing, one that could have let UCF trim the deficit to a single possession but ultimately saw the Shockers extend their lead to 59-52.

This time, it took WSU less than five minutes to establish a double-digit lead, thanks to an ice-cold shooting start from UCF (1 for its first 15 from the field) that allowed the Shockers to open up a 12-2 lead by the first media timeout.

The lead grew to as many as 16 points, as Council ripped off five straight points and Udeze completed an old-fashioned three-point play to put WSU in front 23-7 with 9:53 to play.

It was the final six minutes of the half when the Shockers reverted back to their worst tendencies of poor shooting and sloppy defense, allowing UCF to reel off an extended 16-6 run to trim the deficit down to five before two free throws pushed WSU’s halftime lead to 38-31.

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Wichita State athletics beat reporter. Bringing you closer to the Shockers you love and inside the sports you love to watch.

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