WICHITA, Kan. – Senior day. Net cutting. A big, shiny trophy. It felt like old times at Charles Koch Arena on Saturday, with one new twist.
Tyson Etienne scored 21 points and Wichita State put away South Florida, 80-63, to lock up its first American Athletic Conference regular season crown since joining the league four years ago.
It was the 12th modern era title for the Shockers (15-4, 11-2 American), who won five times in their last six years in the Missouri Valley Conference, including four-straight from 2014-17.
Etienne hit six threes en route to his ninth 20-point performance of the year and his seventh in 13 AAC games.
Gilbert became the American Athletic Conference’s active career assist leader with 307, surpassing USF’s David Collins (303).
USF (8-12, 4-10 American) pushed the Shockers for the better part of the first half.
The game was tied at 26 near the 3:00-mark, but WSU – which had missed all five three-point attempts up to that point – connected 10 times over the next 18 minutes of action.
The Shockers finished the first half on a 12-2 run. Etienne’s triple sent WSU into halftime with a 38-28 cushion.
Momentum continued into the second period. Etienne and Gilbert made consecutive threes to grow the lead to 18.
The Shockers led by as many as 28 with 5:33 to play after another 13-2 run.
WSU takes the No. 1 seed in next week’s American Athletic Conference Championship at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The Shockers will play their quarterfinal opener at 11 a.m. CT Friday on ESPN2 against the winner of a first-round matchup between No. 8 seed South Florida and No. 9 Temple.