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Shockers searching for consistency against Tulsa

Wichita State has not been able to practice or play games with its full complement of players and has looked the part so far this season.

The Shockers (1-2) couldn't seal off second-chance opportunities, committed costly turnovers and couldn't work their offense for the shot that mattered most in their most recent game.

Yet they still took Oklahoma State to the wire and were encouraged by enough positives from that setback to take some confidence into their American Athletic Conference opener Tuesday at Tulsa (1-2).

"College basketball is going to know about us," said Tyson Etienne, the Shockers' leading scorer with 19.7 points per game. "We're just putting it together. It's December. It's a long season. We were great last year in December and then we took a slide, so you know, this year, I believe is going to go the other way."

An optimistic outlook is something the Shockers usually maintained under Gregg Marshall, who coached the program to unprecedented glory in his 13 seasons. Marshall, however, resigned in disgrace during the offseason, and Wichita State remains a bit of an unknown commodity going into AAC action.

An interim coach, Isaac Brown, has been left to deal with the fallout from the Marshall ordeal. In addition, roster upheaval prompted Wichita State to fill several openings.

Then to begin the season, three freshmen were unable to make prompt debuts after being ruled out because of COVID-19 restrictions, which also kept the Shockers from playing in an early three-game event.

"I like the fight. I like the leadership, you know, even in a loss," Brown said following the Oklahoma State defeat, which saw the undefeated Cowboys knock down a game-winning 3-pointer inside the 10-second mark to beat Wichita State, 67-64.

"First thing I heard when I went in the locker room, the guys were saying, you guys stayed together, this is on all of us. I told them, it's on all of us, myself included. We've just got to get better. We've got to be able to finish games."

Connecticut transfer Alterique Gilbert is averaging 15 points, while Dexter Dennis showed his defensive prowess by holding Oklahoma State phenom Cade Cunningham to 10 points.

Tulsa also has dealt with coronavirus issues, keeping the Golden Hurricane from playing since Dec. 4 following the postponement of two games last week.

"I've just talked to our guys about embracing the opportunity to play college basketball," Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. "I think our energy has been great with our guys, and our focus, to get to where we can compete on the court."

An 11-day layoff since a 79-64 win over Texas-Arlington could defuse whatever momentum Tulsa was riding after bouncing back from two previous losses in November at the Hall of Fame Classic.

Haith still looks to lean on four seniors he said "know what it takes. They know our culture."

One of those upperclassmen, Brandon Rachal, leads the Golden Hurricane with a 17.3-point average. Another, Elijah Joiner, tops the team in rebounding (7.0) and chips in 11.7 points per game.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 14, 2020

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