TAMPA, FLA. — Any Wichita State basketball fan who endured the entirety of the worst offensive performance by the Shockers in the Gregg Marshall era might want to erase the game from their memory.
WSU’s first trip to Tampa featured every type of turnover imaginable, multiple missed shots open in front of the rim, an array of air balls, and fouls... lots and lots of fouls. After 32 minutes, WSU nearly had nearly double as many turnovers (18) and fouls (17) as points (20).
Mercifully, after 40 minutes, it ended with South Florida (13-6, 3-4 American) equaling last season’s win total on Jan. 22 with a 54-41 victory over Wichita State at the Yuengling Center on Tuesday night. WSU (8-10, 1-5) dropped to 0-5 on the road with all five defeats coming by at least nine points.
The 41 points tied for the fifth-fewest the Shockers have scored in program history. All five of WSU’s lowest-scoring games occurred between 1991-97.
WSU finished shooting 28 percent (15 of 53) from the field, 11 percent (2 of 18) on three-pointers, 41 percent (9 of 22) on free throws. The Shockers committed 20 turnovers and fouled 25 times.
Senior Markis McDuffie led WSU with 11 points, while Jamarius Burton and Samajae Haynes-Jones each scored eight.
WSU played one of its most dreadful halves of the season to open Tuesday’s game. The Shockers scored 0.43 points per possession, shot 22 percent (6 of 27) from the field, didn’t make any of its eight three-pointers, shot 43 percent (3 of 7) from the foul line, committed 11 turnovers and fouled 15 times.
Yet, after all of that, the Shockers only trailed 30-15. The 15 first-half points were the eighth-fewest in a half in program history.
But only trailing by 15 points to a team that has finished last or dead-last every season in the American Athletic Conference speaks to the Shockers’ road woes this season.
There was hope WSU would funnel its anger from Saturday’s loss to Cincinnati and concentrate it on the Bulls. Playing in front of fewer than 5,000 fans, South Florida offered one of the least-hostile road environments in the conference. For an inexperienced team desperate for a road win, this was about as good of an opportunity that comes along.
Especially when South Florida went through its own struggles. By no means did USF play well; it simply played average and that was good enough to hold a double-digit lead on the Shockers for the majority of the game. The lead grew to as many as 18 points early in the second half.
But when USF opened the second half with just seven points on its first 21 possessions, even WSU’s ice-cold offense could make headway. The Shockers finally started piecing together offense, reeling off an 11-0 run started by an Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler three-point play and highlighted by a McDuffie three-pointer to trim USF’s lead to 37-31 with 7:16 remaining.
Somehow, someway the Shockers only trailed by five points with less than five minutes remaining after a late flurry by Haynes-Jones and two free throws by Jamarius Burton that cut USF’s lead to 42-37 with 4:48 remaining.
But when WSU absolutely needed a defensive stop to cut further into the lead, it never could find one.
USF broke WSU’s full-court press following Burton’s free throws, which led to a foul and two free throws. After a McDuffie miss, USF’s Alexis Yetna drilled a three-pointer to extend the lead back to 47-37. Haynes-Jones scored a layup, but USF’s David Collins responded with a three.
The late push was encouraging for a team that was listless for the first 30 minutes of the game. But the Shockers are past feel-good moments like that on the road. They need to experience winning on the road.
Even with some of its worst play for the first 30 minutes, WSU nearly found a way to experience that on Tuesday. But in the end, the 18-point hole was too much to overcome.
The Shockers will return to Wichita and try again for their first road win of the 2018-19 season on Saturday at Connecticut.