WICHITA — Another improbable one-handed shot rolled around the rim and dropped, and SMU guard Shake Milton’s scream was heard loudly inside Koch Arena.
It was like that for most of Wednesday evening: Milton making tough shot after tough shot, leaving Wichita State fans and defenders in dismay.
Milton scored a career-high 33 points and SMU defeated No. 7 Wichita State, 83-78, ending the Shockers’ 27-game winning streak at Koch Arena. WSU had won 67 of its last 68 games at Koch Arena before Wednesday’s loss.
SMU (13-6, 3-3 American) snapped its three-game losing skid in conference play, while WSU (15-3, 5-1) suffered its first loss in AAC play and fell out of a first-place tie with Cincinnati.
It was an astounding performance by SMU’s offense, which shredded WSU’s defense for 1.38 points per possession. The Mustangs made 63.8 percent of their shots, 11 3-pointers on 50 percent accuracy, and 75 percent from the foul line.
All of this coming against a defense that ranked among the nation’s best in efficiency.
The Shockers had an efficient offensive outing of their own, making 53.6 percent of their shots and 11 3-pointers for 1.32 points per possession.
But it wasn’t enough — because of Milton.
Wichita State rallied from 11 points down with 2:03 remaining to trim SMU’s lead to 79-76 with 39 seconds left, as Austin Reaves and Landry Shamet connected on three 3-pointers.
But again, it was Milton who answered back. He made a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left to push the lead back to 81-76. Darral Willis followed with a basket at the other end, but WSU ran out of time after Jimmy Whitt made a free throw to make it a two-possession game.
Earlier in the half, WSU trimmed SMU’s lead to a single point on two occasions. When it was 38-37 with 18:34 remaining, it was Ben Emelogu who pushed the lead out for SMU with a 3-pointer. Then when WSU trimmed it to 48-47, Milton was there to deliver a three-point play.
WSU appeared to shed its penchant for slow starts, taking an 8-2 lead in the first three minutes on a pair of Conner Frankamp 3-pointers and a Shaquille Morris dunk.
But then the Shockers went nearly seven minutes without a made field goal, as SMU reeled off an 18-3 run to stun the home crowd and put WSU in a 20-11 deficit.
SMU had played zone only eight percent of the time before Wednesday, but the Mustangs played a match-up zone exclusively against WSU in the first half. That left WSU mostly passing around the arc and settling for 3-point shots.
The result was WSU taking 3-pointers on 12 of its first 19 shots. That percentage eventually fell, as Morris (11 first-half points) became more of a threat in the middle of the zone.
But WSU would be playing catch-up for nearly the entire game after losing its lead with 13:40 to play in the first half.
Shamet made back-to-back 3-pointers to trim SMU’s lead to 24-22 with 4:57 to play in the first half, as WSU would cut SMU’s lead to a single possession four separate times down the stretch but still trail SMU 35-32 at halftime.