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Wichita State Had The Kentucky Game Tied … But Badly Misread This Last Inbound Play

  • Rick Chandler

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth over Wichita State’s final inbound play with 3.6 seconds remaining in today’s game with Kentucky. You won’t see this on any of the zillion replays on CBS and elsewhere, because they cut in after the play first develops. But the initial movement of the inbound play had Cleanthony Early — who had hit everything in sight up until then — curling off a high pick and heading to the basket, seemingly wide open. The Kentucky defenders are numbered in red above.

As Shooter noted in “Hoosiers”, the Wildcats were caught watching the paint dry.

But when Early saw that he wasn’t going to get the ball, he stopped … and Fred VanVleet wound up with it, taking an awkward 3 that didn’t come close. Game over, Kentucky wins 78-76.

But why not lob over the top to Early for the tie? Possibly because that wasn’t the way it was drawn up: Early must have been a decoy to draw away defenders. But Jesus, guys: the over-the-top-lob on the sideline inbound is a staple of most teams from the junior high level and up … and most teams have a guy back to defend it. Kentucky didn’t — which should have been an automatic read for Wichita. THROW OVER THE TOP. But they blew it.

Such things become automatic, I suppose, when you’re battle tested. It’s not Wichita’s fault that they play in a weaker conference, but fundamentals are fundamentals.

And so the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers can get together and have a few drinks for the 38th straight year. They are still the NCAA Div. I men’s last unbeaten team.

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