Wichita State used to be the hunter. Once the aptly named little guy, the Shockers wreaked havoc on March.
But on Friday, thanks to an unconscious guard by the name of Jon Elmore, Wichita State became the hunted.
No. 13 seed Marshall, on the back of 27 points from Elmore and his unlimited 3-point range, took down the fourth-seeded Shockers, 81-75, in the second 13-over-4 upset of the 2018 NCAA tournament thus far.
“You hear what Wichita does every year,” Elmore told TNT after the game, referencing the Shockers’ history of tournament success. “We kind of a look up to a school like that. But we’re getting to the point where we want to compete and beat schools like that.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
Conner Frankamp, Wichita State’s own sharpshooter, did his best to keep the No. 4 seed in the game. He had 27 points of his own on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
But the Shockers didn’t take advantage of their size and strength inside. They turned the ball over 15 times, leading to a decisive 26 Marshall points.
And they could do absolutely nothing about shots like this:
Marshall is coached by Dan D’Antoni, purveyor one one of the best analytics rants in college hoops history, and brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. Mike is famous for his uptempo, spread offense that relies on 3-point barrages. The resemblances between his philosophy and Dan’s is unmistakable.
“You’ve seen the D’Antoni system,” Elmore told TNT. “You’ve seen what the Rockets do. We try to imitate some of that stuff, and we’re getting pretty good at it.”
Marshall appeared to have thrown away an early advantage toward the end of the first half and early in the second. But Elmore got hot, and his teammates made sure to find him. On one occasion, they even gave up a seemingly wide open fast-break layup to recycle the ball to him for a 3. Fellow guard Jarrod West also hit two big triples.
Elmore came to Marshall as a transfer from VMI halfway through his freshman year. He plays nearly 40 minutes per game. He’s both facilitator and scorer, and it was the latter strength that carried Marshall and buried Wichita State.
The Shockers came into their first season in the American Athletic Conference as a top-10 team. They had a slightly disappointing debut campaign, but secured a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, their second-highest seed in school history.
But with the move from the Missouri Valley to the AAC came a reversal of March fortunes. Wichita State had won an NCAA tournament game each of the past five years. It had won 10 total over those five years, including a Final Four run in 2013, and six of the 10 as the lower-seeded team.
With roles flip-flopped, though, outcomes changed too. The favorite is going home. But the real shockers, this time, were the Thundering Herd.
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