MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Dexter Dennis scored 15 points to lead a group of four double-digit scorers, but another second-half comeback wasn’t in the cards for Wichita State in a 68-60 loss to Memphis on Thursday night at FedExForum.
Wichita State (22-8, 10-7 American) drops into a fourth-place tie with Memphis (21-9, 10-7) with one game to play. The teams split their regular season series, but the Tigers hold all of the relevant tiebreakers for the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in next week’s Armed Forces American Athletic Conference Championship.
Dennis was 5-of-17 from the field and finished with six rebounds and a pair of steals. Jamarius Burton and Jaime Echenique scored 13-each to go with 11 points and eight boards from Grant Sherfield.
Reserves accounted for 38 of the 68 Memphis points, led by Tyler Harris’ 19 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting. Precious Achiuwa supplied another 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.
Last week the Shockers erased a seven-point deficit in the final 5:00 against Temple and surged from 24-down to defeat SMU. They couldn’t summon the same magic against Memphis, which pushed a five-point halftime lead to as many as 17 late.
WSU shot 34.4 percent from the field, including 6-of-23 from deep, and went 10-of-22 at the foul line.
Memphis finished at 37.7 percent from the field but made 9-of-26 threes and 13-of-19 free throws.
Those struggles weren’t unexpected in a battle of KenPom top-10 defenses. Memphis came in leading the nation in field goal percentage defense with WSU at No. 21.
Points came in fits and starts for both sides.
The Shockers jumped to 7-0 lead then didn’t score again for another seven minutes.
Memphis missed its first seven shots but bounced back with a 13-0 run.
WSU shook loose over the last four minutes of the half to trim an 11-point deficit to two. The Shockers had a shot in the air to tie, but Dennis’ mid-range jumper missed the mark.
Harris ended the half with his third trey to give Memphis a 29-24 cushion, and the lead stayed at two-or-more possessions the rest of the night.
The Tigers led by 10 after a quick start to the second half.
WSU made it interesting with a six-point possession, beginning with a free throw and an offensive rebound. Burton hit a three then scored on a layup after Dennis picked off the Tiger inbound pass to trim the deficit to 34-30 with 16:00 to play.
Memphis scored the next eight points to restore order.
Harris, Lester Quinones and Alex Lomax all made timely shots for the Tigers, who led 62-45 with 5:00 left.
Sherfield scored eight points on a couple of threes to keep the door cracked. The second made it a 66-58 game with 27 seconds to go, but the Shockers would get no closer.
Memphis salvaged a regular season split and now takes a 13-12 lead in the all-time series.
The Shockers won their FedExForum debut in 2018 but have lost their last two games there against the Tigers.
WSU finishes the regular season with a 5-5 record in true road games.
Both sides will have a hand in the determining the league’s regular season champion.
Wichita State hosts Tulsa (13-4), which will be playing for the outright crown, beginning at 3 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network.
Memphis travels to Houston (12-5), which can still claim a piece of the title with a win and a Shocker victory against Tulsa. That game airs at 11 a.m. Sunday on CBS.