Gregg Marshall and his Shockers can take solace in the fact that at least they're not alone.
No. 7 Wichita State became yet another top-10 basketball team to fall to an unranked opponent Wednesday night when a long shot of a comeback bid came up short against SMU, resulting in an 83-78 loss. The Shockers got to hold that distinction for only a little more than an hour before No. 8 Texas Tech -- less than a week removed from the program's first-ever win in a top-10 matchup -- got to feel what it's like to be on the wrong end of an upset.
In Wichita, the Mustangs opened up a 10-point lead in the second half on the road and managed to hit enough foul shots to hold on for a big-time victory. A few hundred miles to the south, the Texas Longhorns were on their way to a 67-58 win over the Red Raiders.
Marshall has elevated his program to the status of national power over the past several years. A beating that stretched nearly wire to wire isn’t a reason to panic, though. Rough losses like this come with the territory. Texas Tech, if it continues growing under Chris Beard, will learn that same lesson plenty of times.
Just ask Villanova, which got its legs taken out by a hot-shooting Butler team three weeks ago. Or Duke, which lost by double digits to a middle-of-the-pack N.C. State team a week later. Or Michigan State and Arizona -- the latter lost to this same SMU team earlier in the season. The list goes on ... especially this season. In a college basketball season void of dominant juggernauts, the upset has become as common as a cold. The cure is to keep on playing.
The Shockers' defense had few, if any, answers for Shake Milton. SMU's junior guard played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 33 points. He hit five of the six 3-point shots he attempted. The range he showed likely gave Wichita State's guards flashbacks to their loss to Trae Young and Oklahoma earlier in the season. SMU coach Tim Jankovich could barely believe it himself.
"Well, we draw up the one play that he shot about four times from about 45 feet," Jankovich said in a postgame interview with ESPN's play-by-play crew. "That’s one thing that was pretty amazing. When you see a guy do that what you're seeing is his heart ... How many guys have played better this year?"
Marshall's team has lost three games this season. Two of them came against red-hot shooters (the Mustangs shot 63 percent from the field and made half of their 3-point attempts Wednesday night) and the third was a tooth-and-nail battle against a Notre Dame team that was much stronger in late November before injuries ravaged their lineup. The Shockers recovered quickly the first two times.
Nights like these are inevitable, and luckily for Wichita State, the American Athletic Conference has just enough depth to make a loss like this forgivable, and the Shockers will keep moving forward. They will travel to No. 12 Cincinnati in mid-February and then make a trip to Dallas for a rematch with SMU a week later. The Mustangs -- with a 13-6 record and a couple of attention-grabbing wins against Arizona and now Wichita State -- will be an RPI booster for the league and are building a good case for their own spot in the NCAA tournament at season's end.
In reality, it wasn't all that long ago that Wichita State was on the opposite end of the equation in a game like this. Those days are gone. While the joy that the Mustangs are enjoying in the wake of their upset victory is a tremendous feeling, no one in Wichita would want to trade spots with them in the long run. Particularly in a season during which a few top-10 teams are seemingly toppled each and every week, an upset is nothing to be upset about for long.