Wichita State narrowly avoided the American Athletic Conference tournament's first shocker.
Trailing for over 35 minutes of their quarterfinal game Friday against South Florida, the top-seeded Shockers turned to standout Tyson Etienne, who knocked down a pair of free throws with 8.9 seconds left to beat the eighth-seeded Bulls 68-67 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Wichita State (16-4) advances to face the fifth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats (11-10) in the first semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
Wichita State defeated visiting Cincinnati 82-76 on Jan. 10 in the team's lone regular-season meeting. Ricky Council IV led the Shockers with a season-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Zach Harvey led the Bearcats with 19 points.
It certainly wasn't easy getting to the semifinal for the Shockers, who led for just 3:21 of the contest after beating the Bulls twice in the regular season.
Using a zone defense in the first half, USF built a 41-32 halftime lead and led twice by 12 points in the second half.
"We didn't attack the zone well," said Shockers coach Isaac Brown, the AAC Coach of the Year. "We never got anybody in the middle of the zone to get matched up."
Despite not making a field goal in the last 5:08, the Shockers overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 6:41 for the win.
The AAC's co-Conference Player of the Year, Etienne scored a game-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
"(It was) just resilience, just staying in the present moment," Etienne said. "We were in a tough spot. They were hitting threes. We played them three times, and each one was a hard fight."
Cincinnati got 19 points from Jeremiah Davenport as it hung on to beat fourth-seeded SMU 74-71 in Friday's second quarterfinal.
The Mustangs hit the court for the first time since Feb. 8 because of a COVID-19 shutdown and received a game-high 35 points from first-team All-AAC selection Kendric Davis.
In addition to scoring his team's first eight points of the game, Davenport also notched seven rebounds and four steals.
"We've got a mission," Davenport said after the victory. "As soon as we go back to the hotel, the coaches are going to give us the scouting report and do what we gotta do for tomorrow and so on. We just gotta keep a focus, head on and just keep doing what we're doing."
DeJulius, who opted out on Feb. 25, returned for the tournament and played sparingly Friday, recording a point, an assist and a rebound.
--Field Level Media
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