WEST LAFEYETTE, Ind.—The Wichita State men’s basketball team dropped its First Four matchup of the NCAA Tournament, 53-52, to Drake on Thursday night inside of Mackey Arena.
The game came down to the final shot for the second consecutive game. Alterique Gilbert’s last-second attempt fell to the floor as time expired.
The Shockers had a final shot after it looked unlikely they would have the chance to hoist a shot.
With 21 seconds remaining, Drake’s Joseph Yesufu knocked down a pair of free throws to bring the Bulldogs’ lead to four. After the ensuing Shocker possession ended in a miss, Dexter Dennis stole a pass and knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just one with 8 seconds to go.
Yesufu had a chance to extend Drake’s lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Gilbert got a pass off a Morris Udeze rebound and hoisted a deep 3, but it didn’t fall.
Udeze had a career game for the Shockers, scoring 22 points, which was a career high for the Shocker big man. He also collected four rebounds.
Dennis also scored in double figures, scoring 13 points and adding seven rebounds. Dennis added three blocks.
Gilbert was the only other Shocker in double figures with 10 points. He also had three rebounds and four assists.
The Shockers end their season with a 16-6 record.
COACH BROWN: Want to give Drake all the credit. They played great tonight. They defended at a high level. We were only able to get 52 points. I thought we defended at a high level as well, holding them to 53.
I thought the key to the game was we missed free throws. We probably missed eight to 10 free throws. We didn’t do a good job of sticking our landing on rebounds. Like we would check them out, would have a good stop. And all of a sudden the ball would bounce out of bounds and it would be their ball. So that happened eight to ten times.
We tried to keep going to go to our big, inside. He did a great job scoring tonight. They did a great job on Tyson just basically like a box and one, not allowing him to get the ball. But I give them all the credit. They played well.
Q. Coach, that’s obviously a tough way to lose. But how quickly can you get in these guys’ ears to try to look back on how proud of them you are and what they were able to achieve in an improbable year?
COACH BROWN: Already did it. I went to the locker room. I didn’t even talk about the game. I said, man, I’m so proud of you guys. You were picked 7th. You won the AAC. You’re one of the 68 teams to make it to the conference tournament. I’m just proud of you.
What I would like you guys to do is continue to do the right things on and off the court, take care of your academics, give a week off, maybe two weeks. And when we come back, time to get bigger and stronger, get better on the basketball floor and get ready for next year. I told them I was proud of them. Great effort. Just didn’t get it done tonight.
Q. What do you think of being part of a really historic night in NCAA Tournament history?
COACH BROWN: Oh, I’m excited about that, being part of a historic history in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. What was Drake able to do to kind of limit obviously Tyson Etienne? Only had one point. And what was the frustrations there?
COACH BROWN: They did a good job of staying with him. He missed a couple of shots. We didn’t do a good job of getting him open. But we went inside to our big boy. I think the problem was in the game, again, we missed the free throws and we didn’t get those rebounds when we needed to.
They did a great job on Tyson, slowing him down. But Tyson also did a good job on their 2 guard. That was the difference in the game.
Q. We’ve talked about the free throws and defensive rebounding recently. Does that make it more frustrating that those things are ultimately what ended the season?
COACH BROWN: Yeah, I’m glad you noticed that, too. It was the free throws. We didn’t do a good job making free throws. And it wasn’t that we wasn’t rebounding. We would get the rebound, we’d get bumped a little bit — they were the more physical team — and the ball would go out of bounds on us. We didn’t do a good job on that. We had to give up at least eight of them like that. When you give up second possessions like that, the team usually makes a basket, and they did a good job.
Q. Obviously Alterique missed that shot. He’s had a great college career. What has he meant to your program this year?
COACH BROWN: He’s meant everything to me, the fact that the kid transferred from UConn. He had never made it to postseason. For the most part he was injured. This has been the first year he’s played in every game. He took care of his body. He did a great job. And he made my life easier.
Anytime you’ve got a point guard that can get the ball up the floor, get you into every set, it makes the head coach’s life easy. He did a great job of getting us in everything. He ran the basketball team. He scored when he needed to.
He had a positive attitude. And he was a leader in the locker room. So I’m really excited about having him here this year and I’m just so thankful to have him for this year.
Q. You mentioned Mo. Just how key was he down low? What allowed him to have so much success, a career high for him?
COACH BROWN: Morris can score the basketball. And at the end of the game I like to go dribble drive. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make sure we were executing and getting the ball to a guy that could score. And every time we threw it in there he scored it.
Just our entire team, we didn’t make free throws like we needed to. We would get up 11 points in the first half, miss a couple of free throws. The second half it was the same thing. I think we got up 11 in the second half. Just didn’t do a good job of rebounding and making free throws.
Q. You mentioned it there, does it sting a little more knowing that you guys did build up those two double-digit leads in each half? And it seemed like you played pretty well in the first 30 minutes but ended up losing. Did that seem more —
COACH BROWN: We just let them hang around. In the first half, we got up 11, had a couple turnovers and they made a few shots. Even though we went into the half with a one-point lead we came out the second half, we put the first half behind us. We got a 10-, 11-point lead in the second half. And we just didn’t do a good job. They stepped up. They made some 3s. They hit some timely baskets. And they were the better team tonight.
Q. I don’t know if you have any insight to the future of the seniors with the oddity of the year but you guys will have a lot coming back either way. Do you know what the seniors are thinking right now? And even with that or without it, how excited are you to have so much youth and so much coming back next year?
COACH BROWN: I’m excited about our team coming back next year. Another year to work with them. Another year to get better. Next year we can concentrate on getting bigger and stronger. And in the summertime we don’t have to work on all our sets because now they know them. So we can do a lot of skill development where guys can get better and better, dribbling with their left-hand, dribbling with their right. A guy that may not be a great shooter now during the summertime, he can work to become a better shooter.
I welcome our seniors back but again those kids, they want to go play professional ball. I hope they get the opportunity to do that. If they want to come back, they’re more than welcome. But if they decide to leave we’ve just got to go out and recruit two good players. We’ve got a lot of guys that we’ve been following and chasing this year. But we welcome them back and I want them back. And that’s just — we’ll sit down and talk to them when we get back. We’ll give them a week off and then we’ll sit back and talk to them after that.
Q. Second straight game where you guys have a shot in the air that would have won it. Second straight with Alterique. What was going through your head this time when he got that shot off?
COACH BROWN: Well, you know, the last time we was in this same situation. Morris Udeze rebounded and threw it to Dexter. So this time I told Dexter to get long, to get at the top of the free-throw line, and when the ball is shot and we secure the rebound, I want you to sprint and get your feet set.
I wanted Alterique and Tyson to get at each elbow at the free-throw line. Whichever side it came off of, I wanted you to sprint up the court, they advance it to you, and we try to get to the rim as quickly as possible. We took a jump shot. They defended it well. Just didn’t make it. I mean, we had to get it up.
Q. On defense, obviously you guys did a good job with them. What do you feel like once they got going a little later in the game, they had the string of 3-pointers, what was the difference there? What were you guys doing a good job of and what kind of changed down the stretch?
COACH BROWN: Just stepped up and made shots. We got in the little point guard. We started driving it. Had to help a little more. And all of a sudden Hemphill made some shots. Every time they kicked it to him he stepped up and made a shot. We missed a couple of layups. They go down, he hit a tough 3. Give them all the credit. Those kids stepped up and made some big shots. We came up a little short tonight.