HONOLULU (AP) — Wichita State brought a cold shooting touch to the warmth of Hawaii.
It finally caught up with the 11th-ranked Shockers.
Seemingly on their way to another in-season tournament title, the Shockers made just one field goal over the last 6 minutes, turning a 50-43 lead into a 60-54 loss to George Washington in the Diamond Head Classic championship game Thursday night.
Wichita State (10-2) shot just 34 percent from the field, and the Colonials’ tough zone defense had a lot to do with that. Kethan Savage sparked George Washington with two passes that he swatted away and turned into layups during a late 16-2 run.
“We’ve got to shoot the ball better, and we can’t turn it over,” coach Gregg Marshall said.
What really hurt was a lack of shots — even though the Shockers shot the ball 61 times, 14 more than the Colonials. Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton both threw passes that Savage saw coming. They missed on a fade pass to Ron Baker. And when the Shockers had no room to make a mistake, they failed to inbounds the ball in 5 seconds, and Yuta Watanabe made a 3 at the other end that gave the Colonials (9-3) the lead for good.
“Those are four possession right there where we came up empty,” Marshall said.
Savage led the Colonials with 12 points to along with three steals, none bigger than the two he made during the late surge that carried them to their first in-season tournament title since knocking off Michigan State and Maryland in 2004 at the BB&T Classic in Washington.
“I wanted to find a way to give us some momentum,” Savage said. “On the defensive end, we needed to make a stop, and we were able to turn those into points.”
Watanabe, the 6-foot-8 freshman from Japan, took over at the top of the zone when Savage got a breather, and he came up big on the offensive side. He hit a baseline jumper to answer Baker’s jumper, and then hit the 3 for a 54-52 lead with 3:32 remaining.
Throughout the second half, the Colonials’ 1-3-1 zone gave Wichita State fits. They couldn’t penetrate the soft middle and got off most of their shots when the 45-second shot clock was in single digits.
“It’s an unusual defense. You don’t see it every day,” Marshall said. “It’s kind of a 1-3-1, but they really go all the way to half court. We talked about it in shootaround today that we wanted to attack the middle. I don’t know. We didn’t make the right decisions, we didn’t make the shots.”
Wichita State, which had to rally in the final minute of overtime to beat Hawaii in the semifinal, didn’t make much all week and couldn’t crack the zone.
Fred VanVleet led the Shockers with 11 points, six of them in the first 4 minutes. He was 4 of 15 from the field. Ron Baker, their leading scorer, was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. He made only one 3-pointer in six attempts.
Reserve guard Ria’n Holland appeared to send the Shockers on their way with three consecutive 3s for a 45-37 lead, and then Carter hit a 3-pointer when the shot clock was about to expire for a 48-40 lead with 7:42 remaining. Carter had made the only 3-pointers he has attempted all season.
But after VanVleet drove for a score and a 50-43 lead, that was it for Wichita State. Savage took over with his defense, the hallmark of the Colonials.
Baker was 13 of 41 from the field for the Diamond Head Classic, and 5 of 22 from the 3-point range. He came into the tournament shooting 50 percent from the field, and 47 percent on 3s.
Kevin Larsen was named the tournament’s most valuable player. His high school (Montrose Christian in Maryland) won a tournament in Hawaii, making him undefeated in the Aloha State.
George Washington set a Diamond Head Classic record by giving up only 153 points in three games, breaking the record of 156 set by Southern California in 2009. The most any team has scored on the Colonials this season was Charlotte (70) in the Colonials’ 78-70 victory.
The Colonials came into the game shooting 30 percent from the 3-point line. They were 9 of 15 against the Shockers.
“The truth is, we finally made some 3s,” Lonergan said. “That’s been our weakness all year. When the shots are there outside, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Wichita State had a tough time making up a deficit late in the game because neither team was in the bonus situation. George Washington finished with only eight personal fouls, while the Shockers fouled late to bring their total to 11. The Colonials were 3 of 6 from the foul line. Zach Brown attempted the only two free throws for Wichita State.
Wichita State plays at Drake on New Year’s Eve.
George Washington plays VMI on Tuesday.