WICHITA, Kan. – No. 10 Cincinnati came up with a stop in the final seconds to defeat No. 11 Wichita State, 62-61, Sunday afternoon at Charles Koch Arena in the 2017-18 home finale.
With the win, Cincinnati (27-4, 16-2) clinched the American Athletic Conference regular season championship. Wichita State (24-6, 14-4) will now be the No. 2 seed in this week’s Aaron’s American Athletic Conference Championship in Orlando, Fla.
The Shockers and Bearcats split the season series with each team winning on the opponent’s home floor.
Sunday’s home finale also marked the final home game for Wichita State’s six seniors: Rashard Kelly, Zach Brown, Rauno Nurger, Darral Willis Jr., Shaquille Morris and Conner Frankamp.
Morris and Landry Shamet both scored a team-high 16 points. Shamet added six rebounds and five assists, while Morris grabbed a team-best eight rebounds.
The two evenly-matched teams weren’t separated by much statistically. Wichita State shot 41 percent from the floor, while Cincinnati hit 40 percent and both teams struggled from beyond the arc. WSU hit six three-pointers in 23 attempts and UC six on 21 tries.
Jacob Evans III tallied a game-high 19 points to go with seven rebounds, while Jarron Cumberland (11), Kyle Washington (11) and Gary Clark (10) rounded out the Bearcat top scorers.
Wichita State started the game hitting five of its first eight shots to take an early 13-9 lead capped by a three-point play from Brown. Following the hot start, the Shockers would go through a cold spell lasting more than four minutes to let Cincinnati retake the lead, 20-15 with 10:05 left in the half.
Other than a Willis free throw, Wichita State’s field goal drought would cover nearly six minutes of action to allow the Bearcats to go up 27-16. Cincinnati’s run would top out at 16-1.
A Shamet pull-up three followed by one from Brown cut the Cincinnati lead to five. A score inside from Morris would then pull the Shockers within three, 29-26 at the 4:00 minute mark.
Willis’ jumper at the buzzer trimmed Cincinnati’s lead at the half to 37-36. Shamet (11), Morris (9) and Willis (8) combined to score 28 of the team’s 36 first half points.
Despite the scoring drought midway through the half, Wichita State still shot 45 percent from the field. The Bearcats cooled off in the final minutes and finished at 42 percent. Both teams hit five three-pointers and the rebound battle was tied at 20.
Jacob Evans led all scorers with 14 points for Cincinnati.
The start of the second half saw the Shockers tie the game three different times in the first 6:30, but Cincinnati had an answer every time.
Wichita State would finally regain the lead at the 10:53 mark (50-49) following a steal and dish from Frankamp to Markis McDuffie. The basket sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy and forced a UC timeout. It was the Shockers’ first lead since the 12:43 mark of the first half when they led 15-14.
The basket for McDuffie capped a personal 5-0 run for the junior, his first points of the game, to spark the Shockers.
Following an Evans three-pointer to put Cincinnati back in front, Kelly threw down a massive one-hand slam, while putting UC’s Gary Clark on a poster. The hammer tied the game at 58 with 5:30 to go.
Trailing 62-59 with 3:11 remaining, the two teams would go scoreless until a Frankamp jumper with 45 seconds on the clock pulled the Shockers within one, 62-61. After stopping the Bearcats on their final offensive possession, it came down to the final 17 seconds and WSU with the ball.
Frankamp’s game-winning three-point attempt came up short and Willis’ offensive rebound putback was snuffed out by Cincinnati and the game clock hitting all zeros.