Davis pours in 27 points a Wright State rolls in regular-season finale

Senior Steven Davis scored a game-high 27 points to lead Wright State past Illinois-Chicago on Sunday at the Nutter Center. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED

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Senior Steven Davis scored a game-high 27 points to lead Wright State past Illinois-Chicago on Sunday at the Nutter Center. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED

Steven Davis received a rousing ovation when he left the floor for the last time in his final home game, but the 6-foot-8 senior wasn’t satisfied. He waved his arms and cupped a hand to his ear to signal for more noise, as the crowd of 4,140 obliged.

When you know you’ll never be showered with love like that again, you want to make it last as long as you can.

Davis scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second half as Wright State blasted UIC, 87-49, to reach 20 wins its regular-season finale Sunday.

“I love the fans. I love the energy they give us and give me,” said Davis, who made five 3-pointers. “They cheer for us every night. They do a great job for us. I’m really going to miss our fans, man. Playing before the home crowd, I definitely wanted to get the win for them, and we were able to do that.”

The Raiders (20-11, 11-7 Horizon League) were locked in as the fifth seed in the conference tournament and couldn’t improve their position. They’ll play fourth-seeded Northern Kentucky (21-10, 12-6) at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

NKU won both meetings this year, 83-79 in the Nutter Center and 83-76 at home.

“I’m really excited to get out with these guys in the tournament,” Davis said. “It’s a whole different beast. There’s a new level of energy and a new level of intensity. I can’t wait to fight with these guys next game.”

Mike LaTulip, a graduate transfer from Illinois, is the Raiders’ only other senior. He failed to score but started and averaged 6.9 points this year.

“It’s nice to see him go out like that,” coach Scott Nagy said of Davis. “He’s been a great teammate and great guy to coach.”

Nagy added: “It would have been very easy for Mike to graduate and move on with his life. But for him to come and do what he’s done for us, we really appreciate it.”

Tourney pairings: The HL tourney starts Friday in Detroit with 8th-seeded Cleveland State playing No. 9 Youngstown State and No. 7 Detroit Mercy facing No. 10 Milwaukee.

No. 1 Oakland plays the 8-9 winner Saturday, while No. 2 Valparaiso faces the 7-10 winner. In the other quarterfinal Sunday, No. 3 Green Bay takes on No. 6 UIC.

Milestone: The Raiders have won 20 games eight times in the last 11 years and 10 times since becoming a Division I program in 1987, but it's still a significant accomplishment.

This is the first time they’ve done it before the conference tournament since 2008.

“I told the guys after the game there’s going to be probably 250 or 300 Division I teams that don’t win 20 games,” Nagy said. “I could be wrong on that, but I’m guessing the number is even smaller.

“This group is definitely an overachieving group. We have a lot of warts — no primary guard, we really don’t have a center we can throw the ball into, we’re small, we’re not very deep. There’s a lot of things you can say we’re not. But I think we’ve got pretty tough kids, kids who want to win.”

That's more like it: The Raiders had allowed at least 81 points in three of their last four games, but they put UIC (14-17, 7-11) in straitjackets from the opening tap.

The Flames tallied just two points in the first seven minutes and started 3-for-18 from the field. They finished with as many turnovers as field goals (16).

“Our defense was really good,” Nagy said. “We were more physical than the last time we played them (an 88-86 road win). Last time, they were more physical than us. Every time they drove, we ended up against the basket, crying for fouls. We didn’t do that today. When they drove, we took them on physically.”

Doing it all: Junior point guard Justin Mitchell had 17 points, four rebounds, six assists and no turnovers. He's assured of posting the highest rebound average at Wright State in nearly two decades.

He’s averaging 8.2 boards per game — the best mark since Thad Burton pulled down 10.9 in 1997-98.

Leading the way: The Raiders finished first the league in home attendance again with a 4,033 average.

They’ve been No. 1 in that category every year since Butler left the conference in 2013.


NEXT GAME

Northern Kentucky vs. Wright State

Horizon League tournament

Detroit, Mich.

7:30 p.m. Sunday

ESPN3/106.5-FM

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