KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bodies were flying all over the floor. Bumps and bruises gave way to cuts and blood.
It was exactly the kind of game Wichita State loves to play.
Ron Baker took the biggest blow when he was walloped in the jaw by a flying elbow from a BYU player late in the second half, but the Shockers' star guard calmly made the free throws, spurring his team on to a 75-62 victory Tuesday night in the championship game of the CBE Classic.
"I think it's a lot like our practices," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "We don't make a lot of excuses. There's not a lot of chatter and making excuses. You just have to play."
The Shockers (7-0) did that best when it mattered most.
Baker finished with 23 points, including six straight free throws down the stretch. Fred VanVleet hit two late 3-pointers and finished with 12 points, while Cleanthony Early also had 12.
"I feel like our team got tested the most in this game," Baker said. "Being down at half is tough for some teams, and we like to pride ourselves in second halves."
Wichita State was clinging to a 68-62 lead when Baker was popped by BYU's Nate Austin, who was given a flagrent-2 foul and ejected from the game. Baker made both free throws with 45.3 seconds left, and then two more when he was fouled with just more than 30 seconds remaining.
The Cougars (5-2) were then hit with a technical foul on their bench for protesting a series of calls, and Baker tacked on two more free throws to put the game out of reach.
"It was a hard-fought game and both teams obviously were playing to win the championship there, and I think it came down to a few plays there late in the game," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Give Wichita State credit. They hit a couple big shots and came down with a couple big rebounds."
Meanwhile, the Cougars didn't make a field goal for the final 8½ minutes, and were just 6 of 30 from the field in the second half. BYU missed all 10 of its 3-point tries after the break.
"I don't think we were maybe attacking the rim as much as we wanted to, but they did a good job defensively, too," said Matt Carlino, who led the Cougars with 21 points. "Give them credit."
Tyler Haws finished with 17 points for BYU, though he was just 3 of 15 from the field. Eric Mika had 10 points and Austin pulled down 12 rebounds.
"That's a very tough ballgame against a very, very good basketball team," Marshall said.
As evenly matched as the teams were much of the night, both had long stretches of dominance in the first half before BYU emerged with a 36-34 lead at the break.
The Cougars, relying on a vexing zone defense, frustrated the Shockers over the first 10 minutes and used a 13-2 run covering about 5 minutes to take a 21-8 lead.
Eventually, the Shockers started to have success shooting over top of the zone and the Cougars cooled off. Nick Wiggins curled in a 3-pointer, Tekele Cotton added one of his own and the scrappy Shockers roared on a 20-2 charge that ignited a partisan crowd inside the Sprint Center.
By the time Darius Carter finished it off with a bruising basket inside, the Shockers had taken a 26-23 lead — their first since the opening minute of the game.
It remained a back-and-forth game throughout the second half as the more physical Shockers tried to pound away inside and the suave, sweet-shooting Cougars peppered away from the outside.
The Shockers eventually took a 57-53 lead when VanVleet knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner with 5½ minutes left, but Haws — held to four points in the first half — immediately took it to the rim and was fouled. He calmly made both free throws.
In fact, most of BYU's offense down the stretch came from the foul line, where the Cougars at one point scored six straight points. But they had also gone cold from the perimeter, while VanVleet scored on an assortment of 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers to extend Wichita State's lead.
Carter slashed to the rim with 1:30 left to make it 68-61, and after Carlino made one of two free throws for the Cougars, he missed a good 3-point look from right in front of his bench.
As chants of "Let's go Shockers!" echoed throughout the building, Baker was walloped by Austin at the other end of the floor. That began Baker's run of free throws that clinched the game.
"To this point, this is the best team we've played," Marshall said, "and they certainly passed with a high mark."