Wright State coach Billy Donlon lost his voice in the first four minutes of the game Wednesday at the Nutter Center. His team survived much longer, but in the end, it also lost, 83-76 to Detroit.
It’s the fourth loss in five games for the Raiders, who just nine days ago had a share of first place in the Horizon League. They’re 14-8 overall, 5-4 in the conference and 0-2 on this three-game homestand, and they fell from a three-way tie for third to fifth place. They’re still just a game back of second-place Detroit (14-8, 6-3) and two back of first-place Valparaiso, which fell to 6-2 with an 80-68 loss at Youngstown on Wednesday.
Offensive woes doomed the Raiders on Saturday in a 55-49 loss to Illinois-Chicago, and their defense wasn’t strong enough against the Titans, who have the 13th highest-scoring offense in the nation.
“We didn’t guard tonight,” said Donlon, his voice hoarse after a tough night on the bench. “Saturday’s loss can happen when you don’t shoot the ball well and have a tragic offensive game. Credit Detroit. Detroit is one of the best offensive teams in our league, maybe the best. You’ve got to guard them. You’ve got to get more stops. You have to make them use more clock.”
The Raiders played at their pace in beating Detroit 64-62 nine days earlier. Detroit had 64 points with eight minutes left in this game.
Still, it was a close game until the final seven minutes. It was tied at 61-61 with 9:35 left when Detroit pulled off the rare five-point possession. Juwan Howard Jr. hit a 3-pointer, and at the same time, Evan Bruinsma was fouled by J.T. Yoho under the basket. Bruinsma hit both free throws, and the Titans led by five.
The Raiders got right back in it with a jumper by Jerran Young and two free throws by Reggie Arceneaux. They trailed 66-65 with 7:24 left.
Wright State didn’t score again for more than five minutes. During an 11-o run by Detroit, the Raiders went ice cold. After making 7-of-18 3-pointers in the first half, they made 2-of-16 in the second half. The Raiders didn’t hit a 3-pointer in the last nine minutes.
“I think our whole mentality has always been to be a good defensive team,” guard Kendall Griffin said. “We lost that tonight. We didn’t really focus on getting stops. We were too engaged on the offensive side, and when shots stopped falling, our defense wasn’t there.”
Young led the Raiders with 14 points. He had nine points in the first half, leading a strong offensive effort that saw the Raiders build a 41-32 lead with 2:12 left in the half.
But to end the half, Detroit ran off eight straight points, including a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Ray McCallum. The Titans hit 3-of-4 free throws in that stretch.
“The big key was when we’re up nine, not only did they get back in the game, but it’s how they got back in the game,” Donlon said. “They got fouled, and the one thing you never want to do when you have a lead is foul the other team so they can score with the clock not running. That made a big difference to go in up one as opposed to eight.”
McCallum, who had eight points in the first game against Wright State, led Detroit with 24. Nick Minnerath scored eight points in the first half in just five minutes and finished with 18.
Reggie Arceneaux scored 12 for Wright State. Griffin had 11, and Cole Darling 10.