TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't pretty and it took a banked-in shot or two, but the Wichita State men's basketball team ended its two-game slide with a 56-43 victory over South Florida on Tuesday at the Yuengling Center.
The Shockers improved to 16-3 overall and moved into a tie for fourth place in the American Athletic Conference at 4-2, while South Florida (8-11, 1-5 American) remained in last place. After losing, 54-41, in Tampa last year, WSU has now won in all but two venues in the American since joining the conference three seasons ago.
One year after WSU finished with just 15 first-half points at the Yuengling Center, the Shockers had an eerie start to their game on Tuesday. WSU missed its first seven shots of the game and was scoreless in its first nine possessions, failing to score until nearly six minutes into the game when Wade scored a layup with 14:14 remaining.
While WSU's offense never hit its stride, the defense was superb and this time it was the Shockers who held South Florida to a miserable offensive performance. WSU limited USF to 43 points, the fewest since holding South Carolina State to 39 in an 85-39 win on Nov. 11, 2016, and to 12 field goals, the fewest since holding Drake to 11 field goals in a 74-48 win on Feb. 9, 2016.
"We're happy to be back in the win column," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "Coming here last year was a house of horrors for us. Tonight we changed a couple things up to try to get us more clean looks and we were able to do that. We shot it a little better than the last two outings. The difference in the game was our defense. We held them to 12 baskets and you're going to win a lot of college basketball games when you hold the other team to 12 baskets."
Freshman Tyson Etienne led WSU in scoring with 13 points, while Dexter Dennis had 12 points on four 3-pointers, the most he's made in his sophomore season since the season opener. Jaime Echenique added nine points, five rebounds and two blocks, while Trey Wade finished with six points and seven rebounds.
For the first time in conference play, WSU won the rebounding advantage with a plus-seven effort, 36-29. The Shockers finished with just 11 turnovers against a defense that ranked seventh nationally in forcing turnovers and outscored USF 18-8 in points off turnovers.
With WSU shooting just 36.5% from the field, Dennis said the Shockers had to find other ways to win on the road.
"It was hard, but winning is hard," Dennis said. "You probably have the ball in your hands maybe three total minutes out of the whole game. So you have to do other things like defense and rebounding and helping teammates. I think we did a good job of that tonight."
Cold shooting from both sides left WSU clinging to a one-point lead, 36-35, midway through the second half. That's when the Shockers made the game-defining run -- a 10-0 run over seven minutes to put the game away.