Wichita State eyes AAC season title vs. South Florida

NCAA Basketball

Wichita State eyes AAC season title vs. South Florida

Wichita State’s game Saturday to settle the top spot in the American Athletic Conference race won’t play out as scheduled, but it will happen.

The first-place Shockers (14-4, 10-2) can win their first regular-season AAC championship when they host the South Florida Bulls in a game that was reworked so the teams could meet in their season finales.

Wichita State won the first meeting in Tampa, beating the Bulls 82-77 in overtime behind 25 points by Tyson Etienne on Dec. 22.

The game was scheduled after Temple — the Shockers’ scheduled foe for Saturday — suspended its activities Tuesday. The AAC canceled the Bulls’ game with Tulane and sent them to Wichita.

The Shockers hold a winning percentage lead over No. 9 Houston — 13-3 in the AAC — and the two teams split the series 1-1 this season, with both schools holding serve with home wins.

Houston finishes its season at Memphis on Sunday, but that meeting will be solely for the AAC’s runner-up position if Wichita State takes care of business against the Bulls.

“I like that we control our own destiny,” said Shockers coach Isaac Brown, whose squad beat Tulane 78-70 on Wednesday. “If we win that game, we’re conference champs and we got it in Wichita.”

On Wednesday against Tulane, the team got double-doubles from Dexter Dennis (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Morris Udeze (12 points, 10 rebounds), a career-high 23 points from Trey Wade and 12 assists by Alterique Gilbert.

“I came here to win,” said Gilbert, a graduate transfer from UConn. “We’re having a little bit of success now and our biggest thing is to come in and stay even-keeled.”

The senior put up the most assists by a Shocker in 30 years, helping put the school on the brink of its first conference title since its final season in the Missouri Valley in 2016-17.

Coach Brian Gregory is just trying to prevent his South Florida (8-11, 4-9) squad from finishing the season on a low note and avoid a season-worst, four-game losing streak.

In their last four defeats, the Bulls have fallen by double digits, including Tuesday’s 73-52 home loss to Memphis.

“We are trying to teach the guys: ‘Let’s not make excuses,'” Gregory said during the recent rough stretch. “There’s no doubt that offensively our rhythm is not where it needs to be and at times those guys aren’t as aggressive to score and shoot the ball as they need to be.”

–Field Level Media

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