Detroit, MI – The No. 11 Wichita State Shockers outscored the Detroit Titans 33-14 over the last 11:42, keyed by several different presses and the defense of junior guard Ron Baker on swingman Juwan Howard Jr. to escape with a hard fought 77-68 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Howard, who finished with 27 points, had staked Detroit to a 54-44 lead but the visiting Shockers kept their poise, created some turnovers, hit some key shots and then made their FT’s down the stretch to escape with the victory.
Baker, who is generally regarded as a first round prospect in either 2015 or 2016, shot only 6-of-18 from the floor (3-of-12 from the arc) on mostly good looks. However, he did knock down a dagger triple to up the Shockers’ lead to 68-62 and chipped in with two FT’s in the final minute to ice the win. While Baker eventually led the Shockers with 19 points, it was his defense on Howard in the last 8:02 (holding him to a meaningless late FG) that turned the tide.
Baker is a bit undersized for a shooting guard at 6-4 but he makes up for it with a very strong floor game as a handler/passer and a strong upper body that serves him well in traffic, on the glass and defending. The normally sure shooting Baker had one of those off days that visit even the very best shooters, but he found numerous other ways to contribute until he eventually got back on track.
The Shockers also received key performances from senior center, Darius Carter, with 18 points (14 in the last 10:46) and 11 rebounds, junior 2016 draft PG prospect, Fred VanVleet, with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
It took all these combined Wichita State heroics to overcome the individual performance of the Titans’ Howard Jr., who was 11-of-23 from floor, hitting on 5-of-12 triple attempts.
The 5th year senior transfer from Western Michigan is a very difficult mid-major matchup as he has a good handle to free himself from slower defenders while his strength allows him to bully many quicker defenders. The 6’5 wing has an extreme scorer’s mentality and doesn’t need much room to get his shot. Sometimes in the past, he has been a bit quick on the trigger but today he was near perfect in his shot selection.
Howard was supported by 12 points and eight rebounds from very interesting redshirt freshman prospect, 6’7 guard Paris Bass.
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