Coming into the 2021-22 season, many expected either Memphis or Houston to win the AAC. Wichita State wasn’t picked to finish first or second by most people, but they were looked at as a sneaky good team that would finish near the top in the conference. After their first four conference games this year, however, the reigning AAC regular season champions were still looking for their first win.
Coming off of two tough losses by a combined five points, it was do-or-die time for the Shockers. It would appear that the third time was the charm at home as they knocked off UCF, 84-79, to win their first conference game of the season. While the play of Houston and SMU at the top of the AAC will make it difficult for Wichita State basketball to defend their title, they do still have a chance to finish near the top of the standings.
Fast Start For Wichita State Basketball
One of the biggest issues for the Shockers during their four-game losing streak was running out of gas late in games. Wichita State was able to get out to some solid leads but consistently fell short of putting teams away. That finally changed on Wednesday night as the Shockers quickly pounced on UCF. Wichita State opened the game on a 12-2 run and led by a score of 23-7 halfway through the first half.
The Shockers would eventually let UCF back into the game and it was around a two-possession game for most of the remainder of the game. It is certainly not ideal for Wichita State to still let teams back into the game, but they were at least able to stay steady the rest of the way. If the Shockers can just eliminate that one slump they seemingly have every game, they’ll find their consistency again.
Ricky Council IV Steps Up
There will always be games when the leaders of the team can’t step up. In those instances, it’s up to the role players to step up to grind out a win. Tyson Etienne and Dexter Dennis shot a combined five for 23 from the field (21.7%) and three for 13 from deep (23%). On most nights, that would doom the Shockers. On Wednesday night, Ricky Council IV stepped up to the plate in a big way and saved the day.
One of the best and easiest ways to win games is to simply get to the free throw line and knock your shots down. Council IV only had shot ten attempts but was still able to put up 31 points thanks to hitting 16 of his 20 free throws. The points were hard to come by on the floor but Council IV more than made up for it by getting to the line and converting. He certainly won’t be doing this every night, but if he can step up like he did Wednesday more this season, Wichita State could go on quite the run.