KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite shooting just 30 percent from the field, BYU hung tough with No. 12 Wichita State Tuesday night at the Sprint Center.
The Cougars enjoyed a 13-point advantage in the first half thanks to solid shooting, and appeared to have the Shockers on their heels. But BYU cooled considerably from there, hitting a total of just six field goals in the second half.
In a physical, slow-paced, foul-plagued game that saw both teams shoot poorly from the field, the Shockers ultimately earned a 75-62 win to claim the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic championship before a crowd of 8,324.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "Both teams were obviously playing to win a championship. I think it came down to the few plays late in the game. Give Wichita State credit, they hit a couple of big shots from the perimeter. They got some big rebounds and ended up with a big win."
The Cougars (5-2) have now lost 11 of their last 12 games against ranked opponents. BYU has dropped six in a row against ranked teams since a victory over then-No. 24 Gonzaga in 2012.
Wichita State (7-0) was last year’s NCAA tournament darling, upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga and advancing to the Final Four.
BYU led at halftime, 36-34, then the Cougars and Shockers traded baskets for much of the second half.
The Cougars made just 18 of 58 shots from the floor on the night, including 6 of 30 in the second half.
"I don't think we were maybe attacking the rim as much as we were wanting to," said guard Matt Carlino. "They did a good job defensively, too. Give them credit. We went through too many lulls in the game where we just didn't make any field goals."
Wichita State, which shot only 35 percent, didn’t manage to pull away until the final minute.
Shocker sophomore guard Ron Baker, who was named tournament MVP, scored a game-high 23 points. He went 5 for 16 from the field.
"He's a really good player," Rose said of Baker. "I think that when it came to posessions where they really go stuck and needed a play — whether it was a big shot, or a drive and a kick, a big offensive rebound —he made really big plays for them. We had a hard time with him. His size, his physical presence and his skill level is really good."
Carlino finished with a team-high 21 — scoring three points in the second half after pouring in 18 in the first half. Tyler Haws added 17. Both Carlino and Haws were named to the all-tournament team. Haws didn’t score his first field goal until a little less than 19 minutes left in the game.
Haws was 3 for 15 from the field, and 11 for 11 from the free-throw line.
With 8:35 remaining, BYU freshman Frank Bartley IV scored to tie things up at 51-all. That was the Cougars’ final field goal of the night, however, as the rest of BYU’s points came on free throws.
Meanwhile, Shocker guard Fred VanVleet, who was having a quiet night offensively up to that point, scored eight straight points during one critical stretch with less than five minutes remaining.
Then things just seemed to unravel for the Cougars.
Forward Nate Austin, who grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, was ejected for a flagrant-two foul with 45.3 seconds remaining. Rose, upset with the officiating, was whistled for a technical foul with 26.2 seconds left.
Just like during Monday’s victory over Texas, Carlino carried the Cougars in the first half.
He opened the game red hot, drilling a pair of 3-pointers to give BYU an early 6-2 lead. Then, following an 11-0 Cougar run, capped by another Carlino 3-pointer, BYU took a 19-6 advantage at the 13-minute mark.
But the Cougars watched that 13-point lead evaporate quickly.
Wichita State, which started 4 for 18 from the field, answered with an 11-0 run of its own, and the Shockers eventually nudged ahead of the Cougars, 24-23, with 6:30 remaining in the half.
Wichita State maintained that lead until the final 35 seconds, when Bartley buried a 3-pointer to give BYU a 36-34 lead at halftime as part of a 10-2 run to end the half.
Carlino shot 4 for 5 from 3-point territory in the first half. Haws finished the half with four points, all from the free-throw line, as he was 0 for 4 from the field.
The Cougars almost shot better from the 3-point line (5 of 10) than from the free-throw line (7 of 13) in the first half. At one point, BYU missed five straight attempts from the charity stripe.
BYU faces Utah State Saturday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) at EnergySolutions Arena.
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