Wichita State might look back at its one-point loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 22 as one of its most important games of the season.
Shockers coach Gregg Marshall took the 67-66 loss in the Maui Invitational title game personally, telling the Wichita Eagle, "The last 19 seconds were the toughest 19 seconds I've dealt with as a coach."
The Shockers led the Irish most of the way and then watched a 16-point lead vanish as well as a chance to beat the then-No. 13 ranked team in the country.
"In 33 years, I've never lost a game like that. We lost that one because everything that could go wrong went wrong," Marshall said. "That's on us, that's on me. We talked about it. We can't get that one back."
That's bad news for Wichita State opponents. Just ask then-No. 16 Baylor, a team the Shockers defeated impressively on the road on Saturday.
Next up to face the sixth-ranked Shockers is South Dakota State on Tuesday at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kan.
In the Saturday win, the Shockers led most of the second half until Baylor tied the game with three-plus minutes to go. This time, Marshall's squad leaned on what it learned from the Notre Dame loss.
"Coach Marshall has done a great job of putting us in those situations in practice ever since that game," Shaquille Morris told the Eagle. "He put us through adversity so we could become comfortable in the game and know what we needed to do to execute and win the game."
The Shockers have compiled a 6-1 record thanks to a suffocating defense, a high-octane offense and domination on the boards. Toss on top the genius of Marshall coaching a veteran group, and Wichita State won't be sneaking up on anyone this season.
It doesn't matter that the Shockers have been missing big man and last season's leading scorer and rebounder Markis McDuffie (11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds) all season.
The Shockers average 46.1 rebounds per game (third best in the nation through Sunday) and 87.0 points per game (No. 24). They allow only 66.1 points per game, and if there is one hallmark of Marshall's teams, it is defense.
"We know defense travels and sometimes offense doesn't," said guard Conner Frankamp (10.9 points, 3.3 assists per game). "That's why we really focus on locking down on defense and rebounding."
If there is a weakness, it is the number of 3-point shots Wichita State allows opponents to shoot. Coincidentally, 3-point shooting is one of the Jackrabbits' strength.
While the Shockers have taken only 158 3-point shots this season, South Dakota State has attempted 267 shots from beyond the arc and connected on 104 of them.
Mike Daum, the nation's second leading scorer last season, is South Dakota State's main threat. Daum scored 20 points in a loss last year to the Shockers, and he left an impression on Marshall.
"He's like Larry Bird," Marshall said. "He's a fantastic player who is probably going to play in the NBA. I just think he's a tremendous talent."
After winning two games against power-conference foes Iowa and more recently Mississippi, the Jackrabbits (7-3) lost to Missouri State on Saturday. Until then, the Jackrabbits had lost only to then-No. 4 Kansas and Wyoming.
"It was a butt-kicking from start to finish," Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger told the Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.) regarding the Missouri State game. "They were the more aggressive team, the more locked-in team. They just outplayed us."
Daum, who is averaging 18.8 points per game, scored only seven in the loss.
And similar to Marshall using the Notre Dame loss as a teaching tool, Otzelberger is doing the same.
"We have to take this and learn from it," he said. "We need to be able to consistently depend on defending people and rebounding the basketball. That has to be part of our DNA. It's not just about making shots."