CANCUN, MEXICO – Erik Stevenson matched his career-high with 22 points, but Wichita State’s bid for a second-straight Cancun Challenge title fell short Wednesday night with a 75-63 loss to West Virginia in the tournament’s championship game.
Stevenson’s 22 points came on 8-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-8 from distance.
Tyson Etienne added 12 points and Jaime Echenique put up his first double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 boards.
WSU (6-1) trailed by three at halftime but struggled inside against the aptly-named Mountaineers’ size and strength. The Shockers finished the game shooting just 30.6 percent from the field and were outrebounded 48-31.
West Virginia (6-0) pulled away in the second half to win the battle of unbeatens. Oscar Tshiebwe led the way with 19 points and 18 rebounds, and Emmitt Matthews Jr. chipped in 13.
The Mountaineers’ 75 points and 41 percent shooting were the best by a Shocker opponent this year. WSU had held each of its first six foes under 40 percent and none had topped 63.
The Shockers’ six assists matched their season low. No player recorded more than one.
WSU committed just nine turnovers while forcing 13. The Shockers bested the Mountaineers 14-5 on points off turnovers but were outscored 30-16 in the paint.
Morris Udeze scored just 15 seconds into the game, but the Shockers missed 13 of their next 14 attempts.
WSU trailed by as many as nine points near the midway point of the first half but made it a one possession game heading into halftime.
The Mountaineers managed just two free throws over a six-minute stretch late in the period.
Stevenson’s three-pointer with 33 seconds remaining in the half pulled the Shockers to within 29-28.
Osabuchien’s putback just before the buzzer was West Virginia’s first field goal since the 6:38-mark and sent the Mountaineers into the locker room with a 31-28 edge.
The Shockers shot just 28.1 percent in the half and were outrebounded by 12 (27-15) but survived by committing just three turnovers and by limiting the Mountaineers to 37.5 percent shooting.
Stevenson and Etienne scored seven points each to lead the early Shocker scoring. Jaime Echenique added five points and six rebounds.
Several players on both sides battled foul trouble.
Trey Wade picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and spent the rest of the half on the bench. By the midway point of the half, Udeze and Poor Bear-Chandler had joined him, robbing the Shockers of valuable post depth.
WSU dunked three times in the first four minutes of the second half. Stevenson opened the period with an alley-oops. Wade converted a steal into a slam, and Echenique added one of his own on a quick pivot.
WSU missed five shots and turned the ball over twice in a span of just over three minutes, and the Mountaineers capitalized with a 10-1 push.
Miles McBride scored consecutive baskets to give West Virginia a 48-36 lead at the 13:13-mark.
The Shockers pulled to within six on three different occasions but could get no closer.