Wright State was relegated to the third-place game in the Gulf Coast Showcase after falling to La Salle, 72-70, in the semifinals Tuesday — and it may have to play without star center Loudon Love.
The 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior took a hard fall in the first half and suffered what appeared to be a right elbow injury. He tried to shoot two free throws after that but missed wildly. He scored five points while playing only seven minutes, sitting out the second half.
Wright State (5-2) will play at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Miami (4-2), which it beat 88-81 in Oxford on Nov. 9.
The RedHawks downed Drake in their first game but dropped an 82-71 decision to South Alabama in the semifinals in Estero, Fla.
Asked about Love on his post-game radio show , coach Scott Nagy said: “We’ve got to prepare like he won’t play tomorrow. Like I told (the players), we went to Miami, and Bam (Bowman) was hurt and out most of that game, and we beat them up pretty good. It’ll be just the opposite tomorrow. He’ll be playing and Loudon won’t. It’ll be interesting to see how our guys respond.”
Bowman, the RedHawks’ 6-foot-8, 273-pound senior forward, suffered a knee injury in the first meeting and played only 15 minutes, finishing with four points.
But Nagy didn’t blame the setback on Love’s absence.
“Our kids really played well in the second half. The first half was awful, honestly. That’s where we lost the game,” he said.
La Salle, picked to finish 10th in the 14-team Atlantic 10, took a 35-30 halftime lead, holding Wright State to 10-of-28 shooting (35.7 percent), including 4 of 15 on 3-pointers.
“We had a great opportunity. They were in foul trouble. And all we did was chuck 3’s. The first half is what cost us. We had a lot of guys who just went rogue,” Nagy said.
La Salle (3-2) took a 45-37 lead with 16:18 to go on a layup by Brandon Stone, who had a team-high 17 points. But Wright State went on a 12-2 run and took a 49-47 lead on two Jordan Ash free throws with 11:50 left.
A 3-pointer by Bill Wampler gave the Raiders a 65-64 lead at 3:55.
The Explorers then scored six straight points to make it 70-65 with 2:05 left.
Tanner Holden made two free throws to cut the deficit to three, ending a Raider scoring drought that lasted almost two minutes. And Cole Gentry made a game-tying 3-pointer with 21 seconds left.
The Explorers then missed a 3-pointer but grabbed the loose-ball rebound. And Ed Croswell scored on a put-back with one second left while being fouled by Jaylon Hall.
The Raiders (5-2) had a last-gasp heave after a missed free throw but couldn’t connect.
Wampler and Hall had 15 points apiece, and Gentry and Holden had 10 each.
The Raiders ended up shooting 22 of 55 (40 percent) but made just 9 of 27 three-pointers and 17 of 29 foul shots.
“We lost by two points and missed 12 free throws,” Nagy said. “We got to the line 29 times, and you should win the basketball game (shooting that many).”
South Alabama (5-2), the Sun Belt Conference preseason favorite, will play La Salle for the title at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Jaguars shot 59.6 percent from the field against the RedHawks, including 69.6 in the second half.
Nike Sibande has 29 points and Dalonte Brown 28 through two games for Miami, which has been out-rebounded by a combined 66-52.
Love was dominant in the first meeting with the RedHawks, tallying 27 points and 16 rebounds.
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