CASPER, Wyo. (AP)—A week ago, Wichita State almost blew a 19-point lead at Syracuse, playing conservatively while the Orange made a late run that fell short.
The 10th-ranked Shockers showed they have learned their lesson.
Kyle Wilson scored 19 points, including two big baskets in the second half, and Wichita State held off a Wyoming rally for an 83-69 victory on Saturday at the Wyoming Shootout.
“We knew that, no matter how big our lead, we had to keep attacking no matter what. Syracuse taught us that,” said Matt Braeuer, who finished with 18 points for the Shockers (7-0). “That’s what we did tonight. We didn’t just sit back in our offense, we attacked the basket.”
And it was Wilson leading the attack.
After the Shockers had fallen behind for the first time in the second half, Wilson scored inside to put Wichita State ahead 52-51, starting a 6-0 run.
Brad Jones hit two free throws to bring Wyoming within 56-53, but Phillip Thomasson answered with a turnaround jumper and Wilson hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run that gave the Shockers a 65-53 lead.
“Kyle, he’s a fifth-year senior, so we go to him a lot in big situations,” Shockers coach Mark Turgeon said.
“He’s a big-time player,” Braeuer said. “We look for him, and we expect him to hit shots like that.”
Wyoming (7-2) made one more run, pulling within 69-62 when Brandon Ewing hit a free throw with 4:50 left.
But that was the closest the Cowboys would get. Braeuer made two free throws, and Wilson hit another big basket as the Shockers began to pull away, going inside to Wilson while the guards drove to the basket.
That’s not happened a week ago, when the Shockers almost blew it at then-No. 15 Syracuse. Up 59-40 with 9:24 left, Wichita State gave up a 21-2 run, allowing the Orange to tie the game at 61 in the game’s final minutes. That’s when Syracuse ran out of gas, and Wichita State went on to a 64-61 victory.
“That’s really what Syracuse taught us—you can’t let up,” Wilson said. “No matter how well you’re playing, you have to keep playing hard, keep fighting.”
Karon Bradley had 14 points and P.J. Couisnard added 11. Ryan Martin had 12 rebounds for the Shockers.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, Wyoming clawed its way back behind Jones and Ewing, chipping away at the lead in the early minutes of the second half until Jones’ driving layup with 10:37 left gave the Cowboys a 51-50 lead, their first since going up 2-0 in the opening minute.
The Cowboys trailed 28-14 after Couisnard hit a 3-pointer with 6:42 left in the first half.
But Ewing scored 14 of his 20 first-half points after Couisnard’s 3-pointer, including a layup with 1.4 seconds left to pull Wyoming within 37-30 at halftime. Ewing finished with 29 points on his 20th birthday, while Jones finished with 17 for Wyoming.
Wichita State built its first-half lead with defense and 3-point shooting. The Shockers forced 10 turnovers and blocked three shots in the first half, while the Cowboys shot just 35 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Bradley hit two 3-pointers midway through the first, and Couisnard’s 3-pointer gave the Shockers their biggest lead, 28-14, with 6:42 left in the half.
“It hurts that we dug such a hole that we had to fight so hard just to get back,” Wyoming coach Steve McClain said.
“We were really guarding,” Turgeon said. “And then we got in foul trouble — after that, we were just trying to survive the half, and they cut the lead in half. But we played good defense in that first half.”
The Cowboys’ 3-point shooting failed them, too. Wyoming came in hitting 43 percent from behind the arc, but went just 3-of-12 against the Shockers.
Still, McClain said there was a bright side, noting reserve Daaron Brown’s eight points and eight rebounds.
“I feel a lot better after this loss than I did after UAB,” McClain said, referring to last weekend’s 21-point home loss. “Tonight, we just weren’t able to sustain another run.”
The last time the Cowboys beat a Top Ten team was in 2002, when Wyoming upset No. 6 Gonzaga 73-66 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.