Few coaches show more intensity on the bench than Wright State’s Billy Donlon.
“Don’t get spread!” he shouted.
“Joe get over here!”
“Get back! Get back!”
That’s just a sampling of Donlon from Tuesday night. He often appears to be trying to will the Raiders to victory. Sometimes it works, but it didn’t on this night as one bad stretch in the second half doomed Wright State in a 60-55 loss at Illinois-Chicago.
The Flames (16-13, 7-8) swept the season series thanks in part to a 19-4 run early in the second half. Wright State led 34-30 at the 16:55 mark but scored four points in the next eight minutes and trailed 49-38 with 9:15 left.
“You can’t come on the road and get down in both halves and win,” Donlon said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. We missed layups. If you include missed front ends (of one-and-ones), we’re 8-of-18 at the foul line. When you score 55, you can’t leave 10 points out there.”
The Flames, who beat the Raiders 55-49 at the Nutter Center on Jan. 26, also had a 13-2 run in the first half. Hayden Humes hit three 3-pointers, his only three of the game, in less than a minute early in the game.
“When your game plan is to defend the 3-point line, you can’t give up three uncontested 3s to their arguably best 3-point shooter,” Donlon said.
Wright State sophomore guard Reggie Arceneaux, who was playing his first game since Feb. 12 after suffering a concussion against Valparaiso, said the Raiders shouldn’t have lost to UIC in either game. The Flames beat the Raiders 55-49 at the Nutter Center on Jan. 26.
“UIC is no way near better than us,” Arceneaux said. “Being a young team, we have to figure out how to keep the intensity high all the time. We held them to six points in eight minutes after the 19-8 lead. Obviously, it’s clear we can play defense, but we have to keep it on all the time.”
The Raiders (18-11, 9-6) drop to fourth place in the Horizon League behind Green Bay. The Phoenix (16-13, 10-5) beat Milwaukee 78-61 on Tuesday.
Wright State hosts Youngstown State at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Green Bay hosts Valparaiso. If Wright State wins and Green Bay loses, the Raiders will get the third seed in the conference tournament.
J.T. Yoho led Wright State with 16 points. He scored 14 in the second half, mainly by attacking the basket. The league’s most accurate 3-point shooter made one 3, and that shot cut UIC’s lead to 58-55 with 14 seconds left.
“I tried to drive the bigger guys because I knew I was quick on the perimeter,” Yoho said. “My teammates found me in the post, and I just tried to finish plays.”
“He’s playing really well,” Donlon said, “and he guarded better. My only negative for him is I’d like him to get a few more rebounds: 24 minutes and three rebounds. He’s 6-for-9 from the two, and his drives, his versatility, he’s really improving his game. I’m really proud of J.T.”
Jerran Young added 13 points for the Raiders, and Kendall Griffin had 10.
The Raiders trailed 56-52 with 1:50 left and had three straight possessions to cut the deficit to two, but Young and Arceneaux missed tough shots in the paint, and then Tavares Sledge missed a wide-open layup with 25 seconds left.
Daniel Barnes led the Flames with 13 points. Humes had 10. Gary Talton, the team’s leading scorer with 13.1 points per game, had 8 points. UIC outscored Wright State 20-8 at the foul line.