Down 15 points, playing a team that just can’t seem to miss; how do you change your luck, and the game?
The Wichita State Shockers used the voices of 10,506 strong.
“They’re certainly fortunate to have 10,000 people. That crowd is as good as any in the country,” Evansville head coach Marty Simmons said. “It’s hard to talk to your team during the action, it’s hard.”
Wichita State has been here before, but the last time it happened, they didn’t have the home court advantage. The Shockers were down by 19 against Missouri State in Springfield, and found a way to get the game to overtime, where they won.
It’s one thing to have a rowdy crowd, but it’s an added advantage when the crowd knows how to change a game.
At the 8:47 mark in the first half, Evansville was on fire, ahead by 15 points, and hoping to make it more.
Instead, the WSU faithful rose to their feet, and let the Purple Aces know, and their beloved Shockers, they’d had enough.
“When you got the crowd that we have; I think they got on their feet when we were down 15 at one point,” said guard Ron Baker. “Very supportive and they know the game of basketball, knowing we need their help, so that’s great.”
Over the next 4:31, Wichita State outscored Evansville 11-0, and finished the half on a 25-4 run, giving the Shockers a 39-33 lead.
The large deficit didn’t bother the Shockers too much, simply because they know what they’re capable of doing.
“We know how well we can play,” said guard Fred Van Vleet. “Maybe when we’re playing our best, and then we’re down 15, then we’ll get worried, but until then we’re going to stay calm.”
The Purple Aces started out on fire. Evansville did not miss a shot until the 11:30 mark in the first half, and by that time had a 21-8 lead, and were 3-3 on three-pointers.
“The way they started, I said ‘oh boy, here we go again’, but we finally got some stops, they missed a couple, and we got out in transition and we started making some,” Shocker head coach Gregg Marshall said. “It wasn’t looking good there for a while.”
The player giving Shocker fans the most concern was sophomore D.J. Balentine, the current MVC scoring leader. In the time it took for the Shockers to fall behind by 15, Balentine had accounted for 14 of his own points. Balentine finished with 26 points.
Wichita State got a balanced scoring attack with four Shockers ending in double figures. Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker each scored 14, while Cleanthony Early and Tekele Cotton finished with 13 and 12 respectively.
The Shockers have now overcome deficits of 19 and 15 this season, and remain undefeated. How big of a deficit would it take for the Shockers to be in real trouble?
“Let’s just hope we don’t find out anytime soon,” Marshall said.
With three home games remaining for the No.4 ranked Shockers, the team may find itself in another deficit, but at least they’ll have 10,506 to help bring them back.