AJ Pacher’s tears in the postgame press conference told the story for Wright State. A season of promise has crumbled in December. Four straight losses this month — all on the road, three by five points or less — has taken the shine off a team with NCAA tournament and conference championship aspirations.
For now, only the words of coach Billy Donlon, following a 59-56 loss to Miami at Millett Hall on Sunday, will keep hope alive.
“Our record is not where it should be,” Donlon said. “I’m the head coach. It falls on me. But let me tell you this: we’ve lost five games in the last minute. We have a good basketball team. We’ll see where we are when it matters in March.”
The Raiders’ pain was the RedHawks’ gain. Miami (2-5) needed a victory even worse than Wright State (5-7).
Miami won a back-and-forth game at free-throw line, making 20 of 31 to Wright State’s 7 of 9. Free throws were the story in the final minutes. The last five points of the game were scored at the foul line.
Miami scored four of them. Quinten Rollins tied the game by making 1 of 2 with 49 seconds left. After a second miss, the ball went out of bounds off Wright State, a bad bounce that would cost the Raiders because Will Felder was fouled on the ensuing possession and put Miami up for good by making both.
With 20 seconds left, Pacher got to the foul line. He made the first, missed the second and then got the rebound and was fouled again. He stepped to the line with the Raiders down one and missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Wright State had a chance to tie the game with 9 seconds left, but Chrishawn Hopkins’ running jumper was off and well defended. Reggie Arceneaux missed a hurried 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
Pacher may take the loss the hardest of anyone because of his misses, but Donlon said, “I’m going to hug him and tell him I love him and tomorrow the sun’s going to come up. He didn’t lose the game. He gave us a chance to win the game.”
Eastern Illinois at Wright State, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dayton CW, 106.5
Miami at Missouri-Kansas City, 8:05 p.m. Wednesday, 1450, 980