Basketball remains unbeaten at home with Wichita win
In a nearly fully-packed H&PE Arena, the men’s basketball team got a standing ovation after delivering its biggest win since 1996.
Redshirt senior guard Rob Gray Jr. had 24 points, and junior guard Corey Davis Jr. had 17 as the Cougars got some old-fashioned revenge in a wire-to-wire 73-59 victory over the No. 7-ranked Wichita State Shockers. It was the program’s first win against a top-10 opponent since beating the No. 3 Memphis Tigers in 1996.
“There’s a big difference between playing hard and competing,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “We always play hard. But tonight we really competed. We believed we were going to win this game.”
Their competitiveness was on full display throughout the game. The first half showcased some of the Cougars’ best defensive efforts as the Shockers were held under double digits for the first 13 minutes.
However, neither team made a three-pointer until Gray made his attempt with 5:30 left in the half. The Cougars only shot 22 percent from three in the first half, and the poor shooting allowed Wichita State to stay in the game. The Cougars had only a nine point lead at the half.
In the previous matchup between these two teams, the Shockers made 10 three-pointers in the first 10 minutes. This time, the Shockers were held to four total shots made from distance. The Cougars were not much better from long-range, as they only hit five deep shots. But their strong defensive play and big nights from Gray and Davis compensated for the lack of three-point production.
Davis was extremely active on both sides of the court. He scored, dove for loose balls and held the Shockers’ leading scorer, Landry Shamet, to only seven points. His big night ended with an exclamation point as he scored a buzzer-beating layup with one second to go in front of a crowd that gave a standing ovation.
The contribution from Davis was a big factor throughout, but the second half belonged to Gray. He scored 13 of his 24 points in the half and helped close out the game for the Cougars. Gray’s signature moment in the game was a fast break dunk over Landry Shamet in the second half.
The win brings the Cougars into a tie for second place for the conference. After splitting the season series with the highest ranked team in the American Athletic Conference, the Cougars are in a position to earn a top three seed in the conference tournament.
While the Cougars have already picked up a couple of quality wins, they aim to continue racking up these wins against elite teams. If they can do that and have a deep run in the conference tournament, they will have the best possible resume to make the NCAA Tournament.
“We just need our respect, got to stay hungry, got to stay humble and continue to fight,” Gray said. “We just got to keep putting these good wins under our belt, and when Selection Sunday comes ,nobody can take that from us.”