Shockers bench come up big

By Gus Bode

Wichita State, bench comes up big

Salukis, Shockers now tied atop Valley

WICHITA, Kan. – SIU head coach Chris Lowery had high praise for his bench following the Salukis’ victory against Bradley last Wednesday.


“We feel our bench is just as strong as anybody’s in the league,” Lowery said.

And who could blame him. It’s the bench that has supplied the energy and execution the starters have lacked in the beginning of games lately.

But for at least one night, the bench was outplayed.

Wichita State reserves made clutch shots, crashed the glass and provided fuel to the fire ignited by the 10,478 fans at the Charles Koch Arena.

It was P.J. Couisnard and Kyle Wilson who kept the Shockers within striking distance in the first half.

And it was ultimately Couisnard and Wilson who lifted Wichita State to a 58-56 victory Saturday and a first-place tie with SIU.

With the game knotted at 56-56, Wichita State didn’t go to two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference forward Jamar Howard, or its leading scorer Randy Burns.


Instead it was Wilson, and the 6-foot-8 Illinois transfer delivered, nailing a tough turnaround over Randal Falker.

As Wilson scored points on one end, Couisnard erased them on the other, deflecting Darren Brooks’ inbounds pass in the final play of the game.

“It wasn’t the right pass to make,” Lowery said of Brooks’ chest pass.

Wichita State (13-2, 6-1) never led in the first half, and trailed SIU (15-4, 6-1) by nine points on three separate occasions before halftime.

Wichita State shot 29.6 percent, with Howard and Burns scoring just seven first half points, but went into the break trailing by only six.

With the Shockers’ starters struggling, Couisnard took over scoring eight of his 11 points and securing five of his seven rebounds in the first half. The redshirt freshman came into the game averaging 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.

“He’s big,” Lowery said. “He’s about 6’4, physical, strong, a great offensive rebounder.”

The Shockers began the second half with a 9-0 run giving them a 30-27 advantage, their first lead of the game.

Howard and Burns played much better offensively in the second half, scoring 17 points and connecting at a much-improved 50 percent clip.

When their shots weren’t falling, Wilson’s were.

Wilson scored nine in the second half and sank five consecutive points putting Wichita State up 45-41, and the Shockers would never trail again. Wilson finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

Freshman Sean Ogirri also chipped in with five points off the bench, as Wichita State reserves outscored the SIU bench 29 to 7 with six of the Salukis’ points coming from Matt Shaw alone.

Shaw and Falker played extended minutes Saturday due to LaMar Owen and Josh Warren’s foul trouble. Both Saluki starting big men picked up four fouls, and Owen played just one minute, 10 seconds in the second half.

“They did really well tonight,” Jamaal Tatum said of Shaw and Falker. “They brought a lot of energy to the game and a lot of athleticism.”

In the end though, Shaw and Falker’s toughness couldn’t help counteract Wichita State’s bench.

“We usually do a good job on people’s benches,” Lowery said. “But today their bench exploited us.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]