WICHITA — Down one of its top scoring options, No. 13 Wichita State had to rely on others to defeat Tulane, 93-86, on Wednesday at Koch Arena.
Shaquille Morris tied his career high of 24 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, as WSU improved to 22-5 and 12-3 in the American Athletic Conference without the services of leading scorer Landry Shamet, who sat out due to flu-like symptons. Tulane (13-14, 4-11) lost for the eighth time in its last nine games.
Senior Conner Frankamp was at his best when it mattered most, scoring 11 of his career-high 18 points in the second half to go along with a season-high three steals. Markis McDuffie also delivered his best performance of the season, scoring 15 points off the bench on 6-of-10 shooting.
But it was the free-throw shooting of little-used guard C.J. Keyser that secured the win for WSU, as the sophomore made four straight free throws in the final minute to halt Tulane’s attempt at a late comeback. Keyser scored a career-high 11 points, including a perfect 7-for-7 performance from the foul line.
The hot shooting of Tulane’s Melvin Frazier (22 points, all in the second half) brought the Green Wave back into the game, as his back-to-back 3s cut WSU’s lead to 90-86 with 39 seconds to play. Keyser’s pair of free throws all but secured the game when Tulane missed its next three.
WSU methodically separated itself in the first half to build a 16-point halftime advantage, then unenthusiastic play in the second half allowed Tulane to draw within five points multiple times.
When Tulane cut WSU’s lead to 60-55 with 10:42 remaining, the Shockers responded with a 5-0 spurt with an Austin Reaves’ 3-pointer and two Darral Willis free throws. Tulane responded with back-to-back baskets to trim it to six, then Frankamp pulled up for a 3 and Willis scored a put-back to extend the lead to 11.
Tulane’s next rally, a 6-0 spurt, cut WSU’s lead to 75-71 with six minutes remaining. But WSU came up with the winning plays from McDuffie and Frankamp down the stretch.
McDuffie canned a corner 3 to push WSU’s lead to 78-71, then Frankamp drained a floater in the lane for an 80-74 lead with 3:45 to play. On the next possession, Frankamp jumped the passing lane for his third steal and made two free throws for an 82-74 lead after being fouled on the attempted layup. After Tulane scored, Frankamp answered back with another isolation basket.
It took WSU more than 12 minutes to separate itself in the first half, as it used a 6-0 run with a three-point play by Morris and a McDuffie 3-pointer to extend its lead to 28-19 with 6:42 left.
A scoring burst from Keyser highlight a 13-5 run over the final 3:10 of the first half, as WSU built a 47-31 halftime lead. Keyser scored first on an athletic foray to the rim and a finish through contact for a three-point play, then had another driving layup during the run.
The silver lining of Shamet’s absence was the extend minutes and opportunities it provided guards Samajae Haynes-Jones and Keyser, who had both not played in WSU’s previous two games.
Keyser took advantage of the opportunity the most, although Haynes-Jones did start strong by making his first 3-pointer and scoring on a fadeaway jump shot.