Shockers edge Temple
in tourney quarters Friday
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — No. 11 Wichita State has advanced to the semifinals of American Athletic Conference tournament.
Landry Shamet scored 24 points, Rashard Kelly had 16 and the Shockers held off pesky Temple for an 89-81 victory on Friday night.
Wichita State (25-6) also got a strong performance from its reserves, including 13 points from Austin Reaves. Next up is No. 21 Houston, which eliminated Central Florida with an 84-56 victory.
The Shockers won two of three against the Owls this season, and the outcome was in doubt every time.
“We certainly do bring out the best in them,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “The bottom line is that they make a lot of shots against us, but we usually do get great contributions from our bench. We go 10 or 11 deep and that’s a good thing.”
Wichita State led 78-75 with 2:23 left and closed it out with 11 foul shots.
Temple stayed close with its perimeter shooting. The Owls went 11 of 24 from 3-point range and shot 50.9 percent from the field overall.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Senior guard Rob Gray never liked the idea of waiting for the selection committee to put his No. 21 Houston Cougars into the NCAA Tournament.
Gray wanted to get there by winning the American Athletic Conference Tournament and gaining an automatic bid, an opportunity he will have Sunday when Houston plays in the championship game against No. 8 Cincinnati.
He scored 33 points to lead the Cougars to a 77-74 victory over No. 11 Wichita State in the semifinal round Saturday.
Gray, who dominated the second half, also made a key late-game steal and hit the final two free throws with 5 seconds remaining.
“We had high expectations coming in. We wanted to go on a three-game win streak and cut down the nets in the conference tournament,” Gray said. “It’s a big deal to come here and make the championship game, and even win it, because it changes the perception that maybe the committee has about our program.”
Corey Davis Jr. scored 19 points for Houston (26-6).
Landry Shamet led Wichita State (25-7) with 19 points while Shaquille Morris had 12, including 10 in the final seven minutes to keep the game close. Rashard Kelly and Austin Reaves each scored 10.
“In our conference, you hear a lot about Cincinnati and Wichita State, but I think that’s perception more than anything else,” Houston coach Kelvin Simpsonn said. “We have got a good team, too.”
Galen Robinson gave the Cougars a 75-74 lead with 1:12 remaining. It was set up with a steal by Gray. Robinson also intercepted a Wichita State inbounds pass with 9 seconds to go that set up Gray’s final free throws.
Houston led through much of the game, but Kelly gave Wichita State its first lead after intermission, 60-59, with 7:12 remaining.
The lead changed hands or was tied eight times in the final seven minutes.
“We lost to a very good team,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “They’re a good defensive team. They’re gritty, tough and well-schooled. That’s just a tough one to lose.”
Houston dominated much of the first half, leading 37-31 at the break.
The Shockers, who came into the game averaging 83.3 points per game, were cold in the first half, when they shot just 27 percent (8 of 30) from the field.
Davis sparked the Cougars early by scoring eight consecutive points, allowing the Cougars to open a 20-11 lead.
This first season in the American Athletic Conference has been a good one for the Shockers, despite Saturday’s loss. They are ready for the NCAA Tournament.
Wichita State: Waits to see where it opens the NCAA Tournament.