5 takeaways from Wright State’s semifinal win vs. Milwaukee

Calling it “a good, old-fashioned rock fight,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy was understandably relieved to have survived Monday night’s Horizon League tournament semifinal game against Milwaukee that featured 79 missed shots.

Freshman Loudon Love scored 18 points, and freshman Jaylon Hall added 12 off the bench to help the Raiders advance to Tuesday night’s championship game with a 59-53 victory at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

“I can’t imagine ESPN loved that game much,” Nagy said. “In terms of viewability, it was a tough deal. But it was good defensive basketball.”

Second-seeded Wright State (24-9) will face No. 8 Cleveland State (12-22), which upset No. 4 Oakland 44-43 in Monday’s first semifinal.

›› PHOTO GALLERY: Wright State men and women advance to championship games

Here are five takeaways from a record-breaking win for the Raiders:

Prolonged drought

The game turned late in the first half when Milwaukee, which had led by as many as six, missed eight of its last nine shots before the break and Wright State went on a 9-2 run to carry a 27-25 advantage into the locker room.

The Panthers missed seven of their first eight shots in the second half, meaning they were 2 of 17 over a stretch of 14 minutes and 22 seconds. And they never recovered.

“We rely on our defense,” junior guard Mark Hughes said. “We only shot 33 percent and still won the game. That just goes to show if you’re getting stops, you put yourself in a good spot to win.”

›› RELATED: Wright State women upset IUPUI to reach championship game

WSU only won two other games this season when shooting worse. The Raiders made 32.8 percent in a 65-61 win against UIC in the conference opener Dec. 28, and they hit 32.8 percent in a 68-64 triumph of Green Bay on Feb. 8.

No. 3’s big 3

Held scoreless in the first half and without a field goal for nearly 37 minutes, Hughes hit the biggest shot of the game.

Milwaukee’s Jeremiah Bell, who led all scorers with 22 points, had just moved the Panthers to within three when Hughes swished a 3-pointer to up the lead to six with 3:03 to go.

“I got a good look in the corner from Jaylon (Hall) driving baseline,” Hughes said. “I slid with him, like we’re taught, and got a good look. It felt good coming out. That was a big shot for us. It put us up six. We just rode that lead out basically.”

Hughes finished with seven points and six rebounds, one of which came with 4:50 to go when he went over the much bigger Bryce Nze before racing up the court and driving to basket to draw a foul, leading to two free throws for his first points.

›› Love breaks school record in quarterfinal win against Green Bay

“Not only was it a great rebound, it was an important one,” Nagy said. “Then he came down the floor and I could just tell there was a different feel to him. And then pretty soon after that he hit that (3-pointer).”

Hall huge, too

The assist to Hughes on the 3-pointer was one of several big plays turned in by Hall, the only non-starter to score for either team.

Nagy praised the freshman’s defense against Bell, Milwaukee’s second-team all-league guard who needed 24 shots to get his 22 points.

Like Jay Morrison on Facebook

“It was unbelievable how he played in the second half, just with so much confidence and making big plays,” Nagy said. “A big rebound and a big pass to Mark. Great defense on Bell. It’s unbelievable how far he’s come defensively. I mean we can take him and almost put him on their best player. He has completely changed his game defensively, and it’s why he’s playing so much.”

Hall also hit both ends of the one-and-one bonus to stretch a five-point lead to seven with 1:01 to go, and he did it again to up the advantage from four to six with 37 ticks remaining.

Record setter

With the win, Wright State set the Division I program record with 24 in a season.

Nagy said he knows the big one would be No. 25 to advance to the NCAA tournament, but he made sure to bring up the record in the locker room.

›› ARCHDEACON: Defensive-minded Raiders on verge of NCAA tournament

“I even mentioned it to the guys afterward,” he said. “It should mean something. It’s a big accomplishment. It’s not why we came here, but it’s still a big accomplishment when you consider all the basketball that’s been played at Wright State.”

Turnover turnaround

After committing five turnovers in the first eight minutes, Wright State only had five more over the final 32 minutes.

And even when the Raiders got sloppy with the ball, they got back and defended, limited Milwaukee to five points off the turnovers.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Top 20 running back Kyren Williams commits to Notre Dame
Top 20 running back Kyren Williams commits to Notre Dame

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish gained a commitment from a player they feel could be a potential running back of the future on Thursday night. St. Louis (Mo.) St. John Vianney recruit Kyren Williams pledged to the program, announcing his decision during a commitment ceremony at his high school. Despite offers from a handful of...
Arkansas recruiting: Latest updates on Razorbacks’ 2019 class
Arkansas recruiting: Latest updates on Razorbacks’ 2019 class

Welcome to SEC Country’s  daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook . In this edition, we discuss the latest updates on the 2019 class. Arkansas’ 2019 recruiting class is at six commitments with the little more than six weeks remaining until the beginning of ...
Previewing Auburn’s 3 official visitors on tap for weekend
Previewing Auburn’s 3 official visitors on tap for weekend

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers  football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Thursday, and SEC Country previews the official visit weekend ahead. Auburn is on tap for another momentous recruiting weekend. The Tigers hope to build off the two commitments in...
North Carolina recruiting: Wendell Moore has 4 official visits set
North Carolina recruiting: Wendell Moore has 4 official visits set

Join us daily at ACC DieHards for the latest North Carolina recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Tar Heels. Don’t miss any coverage from Cody Pace and the DieHards.com team. Read his daily notebooks  here  at 7 p.m. ET Sunday through...
WATCH: Deandre Ayton caught up on Fortnite before NBA Draft
WATCH: Deandre Ayton caught up on Fortnite before NBA Draft

More Stories