WICHITA, Kan. — As Wichita State senior Rashard Kelly stood with the ball in the opening minutes, the result of a second offensive rebound on the possession, a sold-out crowd rose to its feet and thundered applause.
The fans appreciated the effort, and both coaches pointed to that situation and ones like it after No. 22 Wichita State cruised past UConn 95-74 on Saturday.
“That set the tone, the energy you bring out on the floor,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “You know, it’s all rah rah in the locker room, but it’s about the intensity you actually bring out on the court. Rashard did that.”
The Shockers (19-5, 9-3 American Athletic Conference) had 17 assists and just two turnovers while building a 55-33 halftime lead. UConn (12-13, 5-7 American) never threatened after that and was outrebounded 40-24.
“Wichita State played with grit and toughness,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “They took it to us from the first possession, when they got two offensive rebounds. We have to show more toughness.”
Landry Shamet scored 16 points in just 23 minutes, the only Shocker to play that many. Conner Frankamp scored 14 points for Wichita State, Shaquille Morris had 12 and Darral Willis added 10 as the Shockers shot 52.4 percent from the floor.
Kelly said his game-high 10 rebounds were the result of trying to show leadership by example.
“You can’t rebound if you don’t go after them,” Kelly said. “I told the guys that. It’s just an effort thing.”
Jalen Adams and Christian Vital each had 22 points in 35 minutes for UConn, which allowed just 67.9 points per game in its first 11 conference contests.
“Our defense was just horrible today,” Ollie said. “We didn’t get out on shooters, allowed wide-open cuts, gave up offensive rebounds.”
Marshall was not thrilled with the way his team “muddled through the second half,” but even he had to admit the first half was impressive.
Wichita State built a 21-7 lead in less than seven minutes, helped by two Austin Reaves 3-pointers.
The Huskies were never closer than 10 points after that. A 16-4 run pushed the Shockers’ lead to 49-27 with 3:31 remaining in the half.
“I’m not into pretty basketball, but it really was pretty at times,” Marshall said. “It is a thing to marvel at sometimes they way our guys move it.”
Frankamp had been mired in quite a slump. A senior, Frankamp went a combined 1 of 12 from the 3-point line in the previous three games. That included snapping a school-record streak of 40 straight games with at least one 3-pointer.
Frankamp went from a starting role to playing less than 15 minutes in any of those three games.
“I was just wondering when it was going to happen for him,” Marshall said. “He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever been around.”
On Saturday, Frankamp hit his first shot — a 3-pointer off a skip pass from Morris — and kept going. He was 4 of 5 from the 3-point line, including a 25-footer to give him 14 points.
“I’ve been working an hour or two every day and shooting them probably better than I’ve ever shot them in work outs,” Frankamp said. “It was weird not making them in games. I knew they would start falling.”
UConn is not used to a losing record this late in the season. Ollie was asked after the game if the Huskies are starting to get dispirited.
“I’m not getting dispirited,” he said. “I’m staying right here, right in it.”
UConn: With games at Cincinnati and Houston still on the schedule, the Huskies have a legitimate chance to finish below .500.
Wichita State: The Shockers looked like a team with high preseason expectations and likely avoided falling out the Top 25.
UConn: Hosts Tulsa on Thursday night.
Wichita State: Hosts Temple on Thursday night.