ORLANDO — Alterique Gilbert scored five of his team-high 17 points in the final 33 seconds to help Wichita State fend off UCF, 61-60, Wednesday night at Addition Financial Arena.
Darius Perry led UCF (5-10, 3-9) with 27 points but missed a shot for the win in the final seconds. His hanging 15-foot jumper bounced off the rim with three seconds left, and Gilbert secured the rebound for the Shockers as time expired.
WSU (12-4) improved to 7-1 in games decided by five points or less.
At 8-2, the Shockers are out to their best conference start since joining The American. They’re tied with first-place Houston (10-2) in the loss column but still need to make up two victories in the standings.
Gilbert was 6-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Dexter Dennis scored 14 of his with 16 points before halftime and finished with 10 rebounds to end a rather dubious Shocker streak. WSU had entered the night as one of just 10 active Division I schools without at least one double-double this season.
Morris Udeze added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
WSU led by as many as 10 points late in the first half and took a 36-30 edge into the locker room.
UCF rallied to tie the game near the 10:00-mark and neither side led by more than four points the rest of the way.
Trey Wade found Gilbert for a corner three with 33 seconds left gave WSU a 59-55 lead.
Perry answered with a jumper, but Gilbert hit both ended of a 1-and-1 opportunity with 17 seconds to go, and the Shockers appeared to have the game in hand, up 61-57.
Instead, two mental mistakes nearly cost them.
The Shockers fouled Perry on a layup with 11 seconds on the clock, and the Louisville transfer converted the free throw for a three-point play.
Up, 61-60, WSU turned the ball over against UCF’s full court pressure, and the Knights prepared for one final attempt with 7.9 seconds on the clock.
For once, Perry missed.
WSU improved to 7-0 against UCF (3-0 in Orlando).
WSU is out to its best 10-game conference start since joining The American. The Shockers opened 7-2 in their debut season (2017-18) but dropped game No. 10 at Temple.
Brown is out to the best 16-game start by a first-year Shocker head coach since Gary Thompson (13-3 in 1964-65).
WSU is back on the road Sunday at SMU (3 p.m. CT, ESPNU). The Mustangs are 7-4 in league play.
Beginning with Sunday’s game, the Shockers will play four of the next five against teams with winning AAC records. Memphis (8-3), Houston (10-2) and SMU all come to Wichita in the next three weeks.