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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – BYU coach Dave Rose saw his guys wear down before his very eyes Tuesday night.
Wichita State has a tendency to do that to opponents.
The Cougars, who rely on sleek offense and big production from the perimeter, were battered and bruised by the more physical Shockers. BYU was unable to hit a field goal down the stretch, and Wichita State managed to pull away for a 75-62 victory in the title game of the CBE Classic.
"There were a lot of really physical plays in the second half, and I think Wichita State did a better job of playing through them," Rose said. "They kind of wore us out."
No play was more physical than when the Shockers were clinging to a 68-62 lead with 45.3 seconds left, and Ron Baker was popped by BYU's Nate Austin. He was given a flagrant-2 foul and ejected from the game, and Baker made both free throws for some breathing room.
He made four more down the stretch and finished with 23 points to lead the Shockers.
"He's a really good player, and I think when it came to possessions where they really got stuck and needed a play, if it was a big shot or a drive and a kick, a big offensive rebound, he made really big plays for them," Rose said. "We had a hard time with him."
BYU (5-2) never had someone step up in similar fashion down the stretch.
The Cougars were just 6 of 30 from the field in the second half, didn't make a basket anywhere other than the foul line in the last 8½ minutes, and missed all 10 of their 3-point tries after halftime.
"I don't think we were maybe attacking the rim as much as we wanted to, but they did a good job defensively, too," said Matt Carlino, who led BYU with 21 points. "Give them credit."
Tyler Haws finished with 17 points for the Cougars, but he was 3 of 15 from the field. Eric Mika added 10 points and Austin pulled down 12 rebounds.
"That's a very tough ballgame against a very, very good basketball team," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "They'll be in the NCAA tournament barring something very unforeseen."
Fred VanVleet and Cleanthony Early added 12 points each for the Shockers (7-0), who won an in-season tournament for just the second time since the 1963-64 season.
"I feel like our team got tested the most in this game," Baker said. "Being down at half is tough for some teams, and we like to pride ourselves in second halves."
As evenly matched as the teams were much of the night, both had long stretches of dominance in the first half before BYU emerged with a 36-34 lead at the break.
The Cougars, relying on a vexing zone defense, frustrated the Shockers over the first 10 minutes. Early was particularly perturbed, and Marshall decided to yank him from the game after a missed shot and a turnover on consecutive possessions.
BYU used a 13-2 run covering about 5 minutes to take a 21-8 lead.
Eventually, the Shockers started to have success shooting over top of the zone and the Cougars cooled off. Nick Wiggins curled in a 3-pointer, Tekele Cotton added one of his own and the scrappy Shockers roared on a 20-2 charge that ignited a partisan crowd inside the Sprint Center.
By the time Darius Carter finished it off with a bruising basket inside, the Shockers had taken a 26-23 lead — their first since the opening minute of the game.
It remained a back-and-forth game throughout the second half as the more physical Shockers tried to pound away inside and the suave, sweet-shooting Cougars peppered away from the outside.
The Shockers eventually took a 57-53 lead when VanVleet knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner with 5½ minutes left, but Haws — held to four points in the first half — immediately took it to the rim and was fouled. He calmly made both free throws.
In fact, most of BYU's offense down the stretch came from the foul line, where the Cougars at one point scored six straight points. But they had also gone cold from the perimeter, while VanVleet scored on an assortment of 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers to extend Wichita State's lead.
Carter slashed to the rim with 1:30 left to make it 68-61, and after Carlino made one of two free throws for the Cougars, he missed a good 3-point look from right in front of his bench.
As chants of "Let's go Shockers!" echoed throughout the building, Baker was walloped by Austin at the other end of the floor. That began Baker's run of free throws that clinched the game.
"That was a gut-check game," Marshall said. "It wasn't easy."