Wichita State Beats Kansas as Teams Finally Meet on Court

Wichita State’s first win against Kansas in 28 years didn’t come as a shock to coach Gregg Marshall, who said the upset might finally kick-start an in-state rivalry.

A year after Wichita State had an unbeaten season end in the round of 32 at the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, the Shockers reached the final 16 with a 78-65 victory Sunday against Kansas.

It was the first meeting between the two Kansas schools, which are separated by 162 miles, since 1993. It was especially sweet for Wichita State, which has been rebuffed in efforts to schedule regular-season games with a Kansas program that has the second-most wins in college basketball history.

“This is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve been involved with being a Shocker, just because we don’t get the opportunity to play KU, and we’re going to the Sweet 16,” said Wichita State junior guard Ron Baker, who wasn’t recruited by the Jayhawks coming out of high school in Scott City, Kansas, which has a population of about 4,000. “I’m really, really proud of what we have accomplished.”

Baker symbolizes the overachieving and underappreciated Wichita State program, which Marshall said doesn’t have the “blue-blood” pedigree of programs such as Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana or Duke. But the Shockers have won at least 25 games for six straight seasons and are now back in the final 16 of the tournament, two years after reaching the Final Four.

After Wichita State’s first win against the Jayhawks since 1987, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback congratulated the Shockers in their locker room while wearing a yellow and black t-shirt that read “Kings of Kansas.” During the game, Brownback had worn a shirt emblazoned with the logos of both schools.

One-Point Underdog

“They may want to play now. Who knows?” Marshall said of the Jayhawks. “I have no idea; I’m not worried about that. I’m fine letting the series lay the way it is right now.”

Although Wichita State was the seventh seed and Kansas was second in the Midwest Region, the Shockers were only a one-point underdog in Sunday’s game, according to oddsmakers.

After trailing 24-16 with about five minutes left in the first half, Wichita State went on a 25-6 scoring run to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Jayhawks never got closer than eight points in the final 10 minutes in Omaha, Nebraska.

“They played a beautiful basketball game,” Marshall said. “We calmed down about midway through the first half and stopped taking bad shots and started to execute some offense.”

Kansas coach Bill Self, who has avoided setting up a regular-season meeting with Wichita State because he said it wasn’t in the best interest of his program, said the better team won and that the Shockers deserved to advance.

“It makes for us an offseason that will be hard to, you know, put this aside,” Self said. “It’s obviously going to weigh on us and it’s going to weigh on others. I’m very disappointed and hurt that it happened, but I’m not embarrassed that we lost to a really good team.”

‘Hits Home’

While the Jayhawks return to Kansas, Wichita State moves on to Cleveland to face third-seeded Notre Dame. Before that matchup, the Shockers said they’ll enjoy their NCAA tournament win against the state’s most storied basketball program.

“It definitely hits home, being a Wichita kid, growing up a Wichita State fan,” said junior guard Evan Wessel, who hit four 3-pointers against Kansas. “My family went to Wichita State, and it’s big for the community, and I’m just glad we got the win and ready to move on to the Sweet 16.”

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