By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor men’s basketball rarely loses non-conference home games. In fact, the Bears hadn’t lost one since a 74-70 loss on Dec. 4, 2012 to Northwestern.
But No. 8 Wichita State isn’t like most teams that Baylor welcomes to the Ferrell Center. The Shockers (6-1) showed why they’ve been the NCAA’s best road team since the start of the 2013-2014 season, edging the Bears 69-62 in front of a raucous crowd of 9,733 at the Ferrell Center.
Entering the contest, Wichita State had yet to play a true road game, but is 41-6 in true road games since the 2013-2014 season. Its lone loss this season came in the Maui Invitational Championship to then No. 13 Notre Dame 67-66 after letting a double digit lead slip away in the second half and the Shockers were determined not to make the same mistake on Saturday.
Senior guard Conner Frankamp said that in order to win in hostile environments, the team can’t always rely on favorable calls or hot shooting so defense has to be the top priority.
“It’s just something we preach in the locker room before road games. We know defense travels and sometimes offense doesn’t so that’s what we have to really focus on,” Frankamp said.
The Shockers effort started on the defensive end, limiting Baylor to just 37 percent shooting for the game and allowing the Bears to hit five of 21 from beyond the arc. Senior guard Manu Lecomte led Baylor with 15 points, but was only six of 13 from the field and really had to work to get his shots as he was consistently hounded by Wichita State’s guards.
Lecomte said the Shockers made the Bears work for every shot and rebound, but that Baylor did a good job trying to stay patient within the offense.
“That’s what they like to do. They like to get the ball out of the pg’s [point guard] hands, make us work on offense. I thought we did a good job staying patient and not rushing shots,” Lecomte said.
Junior guard King McClure finished with 12 points, but was five of 15 from the floor and just one of six from three point range. The Shockers also held senior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. to 13 points before fouling out, but held him scoreless in the first half and held the Bears without a point for the final 3:47 of the first half, in building a 33-29 advantage at the break.
To get big wins on the road, rebounding and guard play down the stretch is pivotal.
The Shockers outrebounded the Bears 38-36 and continued to work the ball around the zone to free up three point shots as Wichita State knocked down 10 of its 16 attempts.
Frankamp came up with big shot after big shot for the Shockers. He hit five of his eight three-point attempts, including the one that put Wichita State in front for good 65-62 after Baylor’s junior guard Jake Lindsey tied the game on a strong drive and free throw through contact.
Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall said that Frankamp’s clutch shooting is a part of his nature as a basketball player.
“He’s a great shooter, and we look for him against the zone. It’s why he’s out there to be honest,” Marshall said. “He does a great job of letting it go with confidence. He has great rotation on the basketball, obviously, and he’s a tremendous shooter. “
Running the offense against Baylor’s tough 1-1-3 zone was six foot four inch sophomore guard Landry Shamet, who said his composure down the stretch was his main focus.
“My biggest thing was to stay composed, even-keeled and that’s the biggest thing. We were all on the same page,” Shamet said. “A couple of things went their way, but we knew what we were doing the whole game.”
Shamet hit three of his four shots from downtown, but more importantly was able to penetrate the zone and find his teammates as he finished with seven assists and four rebounds while committing just one turnover in 36 minutes.
Marshall said the Shockers were able to move the ball well against the athletic Baylor zone and it was the penetration that opened up shots for its shooters.
“You’ve got to get the ball into the interior of the zone around the middle of the paint and also the corners,” Marshall said. “A lot of time when they are swarming, there are four guys foul line extended or higher—the point guard, the guy at the foul line and the two wings. You’ve got to attack the baseline and that was a big emphasis for us.”
After the Frankamp go-ahead three-pointer, Wichita State closed the door on Baylor by knocking down four of its five three throw attempts and forcing the Bears into missing their final five shots.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said that Wichita’s State poise down the stretch and performance on the road is the a direct correlation to the culture that Marshall and his staff has built for the Shockers.
“They have a great tradition there. Coach Marshall is one of the best coaches in the country and always does a great job putting his guys in position to be successful,” Drew said.
Baylor (5-2), who has now dropped two straight after a 76-63 loss to Xavier on Tuesday, has a quick turnaround. The Bears look to begin a new non-conference home winning streak when they host Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. Monday.