WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Erik Stevenson, Wichita State’s sophomore team leader, flexed his arms, puffed his chest and jutted out his chin as he stared down the screaming fans.
But he wasn’t celebrating his own play — instead, it was a tough layup that teammate Jamarius Burton converted while being fouled.
In Stevenson’s mind, it was the type of play that represented No. 23 Wichita State powering its way past No. 21 Memphis 76-67 on Thursday night.
“It was a big-boy finish by Jamarius,” Stevenson said. “So I had to flex my muscles, too.”
Burton’s 16 points were huge for the Shockers (14-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference, who won while shooting 32.8%, 10 points below their season mark.
Precious Achiuwa putting up 22 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis (12-3, 1-1).
Burton, a sophomore guard, scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including multiple baskets to stop Memphis runs.
“Last year, we game planned against him, wanted him to get shots,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said of Burton. “This year, he’s one of those freshmen from last year for them that has really improved.”
Stevenson had 12 points for the Shockers, and Tyson Etienne added 11 points.
Freshman reserve Tyler Harris scored 17 points for the Tigers.
Wichita State started each half strong only to see Memphis counter and stay in the game.
The Shockers burst out to a 23-11 lead before Memphis fought back, holding Wichita State to only two points over nearly five minutes, cutting the lead to 25-22 with 4:48 remaining in the half.
“We finally got stops,” Hardaway said. “We put them in position when the shot clock was going down, got the rebound and got going downhill.”
Wichita State led 56-37 with 12:01 remaining after a 3-pointer by Stevenson that forced a Memphis timeout.
But the Tigers held Wichita State to 27.3% shooting in the second half and again got back in contention.
“We had the ball twice down six in the final minutes and turned it over,” Hardaway said. “You can’t do that on the road.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was not thrilled with all aspects of his team’s play, but he said he loved the fight in a game where neither team shot it well.
“The win is a credit to our guys that went out and scrapped and fought,” Marshall said, “sometimes against dudes that were much bigger and more athletic.”
Memphis entered the game tied for third in the AAC in 3-point shooting at 34.8%.
The Tigers were 1 of 13 from the 3-point line in the first half and finished 4 of 21.
“That’s terrible,” Hardaway said. “We went into the game telling them to live in the paint. Half of those (3-point shots) were really good looks we have to make. But half of them were really forced by young guys who just felt like they needed to get a shot.”
According to KenPom, Memphis is the youngest team in the country. The Tigers played seven freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
Wichita State isn’t much older as 10 of the Shockers’ 13 scholarship players are freshmen or sophomores.
“There were a lot of young players that can really play,” Marshall said. “There was a very talented 10 on the floor at all times during the game.”
Memphis: The Tigers lost a tough game in a challenging venue but will get a rematch with the Shockers on March 5.
Wichita State: The Shockers probably take over as conference favorites but now must prove it away from home.
Memphis: At South Florida on Sunday.
Wichita State: At UConn on Sunday.