Wright State junior guard Miles Dixon couldn’t put a number on his buzzer-beater Saturday night against Detroit. Degree of difficulty? Who knows? The right answer: Off the charts.
“Were you behind the backboard?” a reporter asked.
“Could you see the basket?” another wondered.
Sensing an opportunity, coach Billy Donlon said, “He was behind the backboard, and he was in the stands. Let’s just start the legend right now.”
The play needs no embellishing, however. Picasso could add nothing.
Dixon’s baseline jumper as time expired gave the Raiders a 56-54 victory Saturday in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament at Valparaiso and added the latest thrilling chapter to an unexpected season that has the Raiders on the doorstep of the NCAA tournament.
“One more!” the players chanted in the locker room after mobbing Dixon on the court. “One more!”
Wright State, seeking its third NCAA Division I tournament berth and first since 2007, will play Valparaiso on Tuesday at 9 p.m. for the conference championship right back here at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valparaiso beat Green Bay 70-69 in the second semifinal.
Saturday night, though, Wright State (21-11) could savor the sweetest victory of the season. A team picked to finish last knocked off the defending Horizon League tournament champion. A team with no seniors beat a team that started two. A team whose leading scorer hasn’t played in weeks beat a team with the conference player of the year.
Wright State did all that because of Dixon’s amazing shot. The Raiders led almost the entire second half, but Detroit’s Jason Calliste tied the game at 54 with a 3-pointer with 1:10 to play.
Detroit’s Doug Anderson missed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, and Wright State took the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds to go.
In the huddle, the Raiders drew up a play for J.T. Yoho, the freshman who scored all eight of his points in the second half. Meanwhile, Donlon told the Raiders something he had repeated all game long: “We’re going to win.”
“When you hear for 365 days that you’re not going to be very good, somebody better tell you you’re good,” Donlon said. “That’s my job. They believed they were going to win. I looked in our guys’ eyes. There was no doubt the entire night. They went out and won it.”
Dixon didn’t see Yoho in the post, so he drove the baseline on the opposite side of the court from the Wright State’s bench. A sea of Valparaiso fans, most cheering for the underdog Raiders, were just feet away from Dixon as he began his drive. Detroit’s Jason Calliste was on Dixon’s hip. Evan Bruinsma and Ray McCallum stopped Dixon’s drive in the paint.
Dixon, who led the Raiders with 14 points, backed the ball out as the clock ticked down. He was running out of time. But McCallum didn’t follow Dixon. Bruinsma, a 6-foot-8 forward, held both arms straight in the air. Dixon turned and faded away and lofted a perfect jump shot.
Swish. The buzzer sounded just as the ball hit the net.
“I believed I was going to get the shot off,” Dixon said. “I saw the clock running. I shot a miracle.”