CHARLESTON, S.C. – Despite another big scoring night from senior Markis McDuffie and a breakout performance from Dexter Dennis, Wichita State fell 90-86 to Alabama on Sunday afternoon in the Charleston Classic fifth-place game.
McDuffie scored a game-high 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting and snagged eight rebounds.
Dennis scored 15 of his career-high 19 points after halftime to help the Shockers (2-3) rally from a 12-point deficit at the midway point. He hit all five of his second-half shot attempts and grabbed four offensive rebounds.
Jaime Echenique and Samajae Haynes-Jones chipped in 13 point each. Ricky Torres registered personal-bests for points (4) and assists (5) in 25 minutes of turnover-free basketball.
The Shockers hit 46.8 percent of their shots and over 80 percent from the foul line (22-of-27), but they struggled from beyond the arc (6-of-23, .261).
Alabama (4-1) kept the Shockers at arms’ length by hitting free throws. The Crimson Tide came in shooting just 65 percent as a team but hit 31-of-33 foul shots, including 23-of-24 in the second half. They were 9-of-19 from three-point range.
Kira Lewis Jr. paced Alabama with 24 points in 33 minutes. He was 11-for-11 at the foul line. Alex Reese added 19 points in 15 minutes off the bench.
Freshman guard Erik Stevenson made his first career start but played just 13 minutes.
WSU trailed 12-7 early but McDuffie hit a three and Dennis nailed a 16-footer. Torres capped a 7-0 Shocker run with a steal and fastbreak feed to Dennis for a layup and a 14-12 Shocker lead at the 13:46-mark of the first half.
Alabama answered with a 17-2 run, fueled by a pair of John Petty Jr. threes. Tevin Mack canned a jumper to give the Tide a commanding, 29-16 lead with 8:50 to play in the period.
The Shockers needed just two minutes to cut it in half, scoring the next seven points. Haynes-Jones made a three and McDuffie added a layup and a put-back to pull WSU to within 29-23 at the 6:50-mark.
McDuffie’s three-point play and an Echenique jumper whittled the margin to 33-30 with 3:55 to go, but the Shockers would go the rest of the half without a field goal.
Alabama closed the half on a 10-2 push, helped by a flurry in the final 30 seconds. Lewis converted a three-point play, Donta Hall stole the ball in the backcourt and fed Lewis for another layup and a 46-34 halftime cushion.
The Shockers looked much sharper to begin the second half. Alabama briefly pushed the lead to 13 – matching its biggest of the night – but WSU chipped away by hitting six of its first seven shots.
McDuffie penetrated for a layup then a hit a three on the next trip to cut the Alabama lead to 56-50. Dennis went to work with nine-straight Shocker points. His three tied the game at 69 with 7:15 remaining.
WSU had success getting to the rim against a taller and more-athletic Alabama front line, outscoring the Tide 26-12 in the paint during the second half.
Threes by Lewis and Reese helped Alabama swing the momentum. Reese connected at the 4:16-mark and Lewis drove for a layup and a 77-71 Tide lead with 4:20 to go.
The Shockers hung around but had trouble making headway against Alabama’s near-flawless free throw shooting. The Tide were 13-of-14 from the stripe over the last four minutes to protect their lead.
Haynes-Jones’ three-point play gave the Shockers a glimmer of hope with 11 seconds remaining by making it a one-possession game, 87-84.
WSU fouled Lewis with seven seconds to go. His first free throw attempt bounced off the rim and out, ending a string of 21-straight makes for Alabama. However, the second attempt was on the mark, upping the Tide lead to 88-84.
Haynes-Jones missed a long three-point heave. Torres was fouled on the rebound and converted two free throws with just under a second left.
WSU fouled Dazon Ingram with a tenth of a second still showing, but the Alabama guard connected on two more free throws for the final margin.