MEMPHIS — The Shockers are still in search of their first road win of the season.
Wichita State couldn't overcome a 25-shot disadvantage at the free-throw line in an 85-74 loss at Memphis on Thursday at the FedEx Forum. The Shockers (7-6) dropped their first American Athletic Conference game of the season, while Memphis (9-5) extended its winning streak to four games.
WSU senior Markis McDuffie once again led the way for the Shockers, scoring a team-high 19 points. Samajae Haynes-Jones added 15 points on 17 shots with six assists and five turnovers, while freshman Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler scored a career-high 12 points off the bench. The Shockers shot 44 percent from the field, 10 of 33 from the three-point line, and committed 15 turnovers.
But the Shockers couldn't make up their disadvantage at the free-throw line. WSU was only whistled for six more fouls than Memphis, but the Shockers shot 25 less free throws. Memphis made 25 of 31 free throws, while WSU went 6 for 6 from the foul line.
Kyvon Davenport led the Tigers off the bench with 25 points.
WSU fell behind by 16 points with six minutes remaining, a situation similar to its other two road games: at Oklahoma and at VCU. In those games, WSU didn't put up much of a fight in the second half and never made a rally. This time was a little different..
McDuffie finished a three-point play, then Haynes-Jones canned a corner three on a Poor Bear-Chandler offensive rebound to cut Memphis' lead to 79-71 with 2:46 remaining, capping a 10-2 rally. The Shockers would come as close as seven points, following a ferocious dunk by Dexter Dennis for a three-point play, but Memphis responded with two free throws and WSU would never come closer.
Staring down a 12-point halftime deficit, WSU showed its first sign of resiliency when it opened the second half on a 9-2 run and forced Memphis to burn a timeout within the first two and a half minutes.
Echenique was particularly dialed in, scoring the first three times he touched the ball. He finished twice inside, then popped out and hit a long two-pointer, then Haynes-Jones capped the run with a corner three to cut Memphis' lead to 46-41 with 17:48 remaining.
McDuffie carried the offensive load for the Shockers in the second half, as he made countless jumpers to keep WSU within striking distance. His jumper with 14:36 remaining cut the Tigers' lead to 50-46.
But when the offense picked up, WSU's defense never could string together enough stops to piece together another run.
Memphis used a 9-2 spurt to establish an 11-point lead halfway through the second half, but WSU made its final rally with Haynes-Jones slashing through the defense and finishing, then Dennis canning a three to cut Memphis' lead to 59-53 with 9:42 remaining. It would be the closest WSU would be for the remainder of the game.
After cutting the deficit to six, WSU's defense failed to register a stop four straight times and allowed the Tigers to immediately restore their cushion to 12 points.
The constant waves of pressure Memphis brought eventually got to WSU's ball handlers. There were times when WSU didn't even cross halfcourt because of a turnover, then in the halfcourt they were sped up and forced to make split-second decisions that too often turned out to be the wrong ones.
WSU had its share of good and bad news before the game even started when Echenique (foot) was cleared to play, but his backup, freshman Morris Udeze, was inactive after re-injuring his shoulder.
But it was freshman Poor Bear-Chandler who stole the show, at least in the first 20 minutes.
Poor Bear-Chandler was WSU's best player in the first half, pouring in 10 points, a career-high, off the bench. The freshman showed off his potential on offense. He scored on the low block with a left-handed hook and also connected on both of his three-pointers.
After 10 minutes, WSU was in control with a 14-11 lead and mucking up the game just like it wanted to against a Memphis team that entered playing at the ninth-fastest tempo in college basketball.
But a costly mistake by WSU seemed to spark Memphis and set the Tigers off and running. The play began with WSU on its own fastbreak when instead of attacking the basket, Haynes-Jones made a last-second pass to an unsuspecting Poor Bear-Chandler. The turnover jump-started Memphis' transition attack and Kyvon Davenport finished on a lay-in.
Over the next nine minutes, Memphis' offense delivered an onslaught: 33 points in 18 possessions. WSU's four-point lead became a 12-point halftime deficit, 44-32.
The Shockers made their second-half rally, but ultimately came up short in what turned out to be Wichita State's first conference-opening loss since the 2009-10 season.