Green Bay at Wright State, 7 p.m. Thursday, 100.3, Time Warner Ch. 99
Late in the first half, a Wright State fan shouted what everyone was thinking: “Wake up!”
Wright State did appear to be sleepwalking at times Sunday against Mount St. Joseph. That would be one explanation for why it trailed a Division III team by as many as 11 points in the first half. Perhaps it was the possibility of an upset that jolted the Raiders awake because they eventually pulled away in the second half for a 58-49 victory at the Nutter Center.
“Certainly this performance is on the head coach,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “We’ll respond better on Thursday for Green Bay, but there’s no way in our home gym we should have been down at the half. There’s only one place to go with that, and that’s me, the head coach.”
The Raiders (9-4) head into conference play with the second-most nonconference wins among the nine Horizon League teams. They have exceeded all expectations in the first two months of the season.
This performance, of course, will raise some doubts. The Raiders shot a season-worst 1-of-15 (7 percent) from 3-point range and had their second-worst night at the free-throw line, making 9-of-22 (41 percent).
Donlon hoped to rest Cole Darling to protect his injured shoulder and also Kendall Griffin, who missed practice time this week because of the flu. Both came off the bench to play double-figure minutes because the Raiders needed them.
Darling said the Raiders were never nervous, but there were tense moments. The Lions (5-6) went on a 12-0 run in the first half to take an 18-7 lead. The Raiders didn’t score for seven minutes, and despite a 14-4 run to end the half, they trailed 22-21 at halftime.
It was only the third time Wright State had trailed at the half all season, and they lost the first two.
“It was really disappointing the way we played,” Darling said. “I just feel we didn’t come out with the energy and focus to play a good game.”
In the second half, with the score tied 33-33, the Raiders finally took control of the game with a 15-2 run. Four baskets in 70 seconds put the exclamation point on the run: dunks by Jerran Young and Miles Dixon, then two layups by Young.
For the second straight home game, Young and Dixon carried the Raiders on the offensive end. Young scored a career-high 24 points, and Dixon added 10. They combined for 40 points against Miami on Dec. 19.
Young shot 11-of-14 from the field. He had seven turnovers, but also six steals.
“My goal was to get the offense going through my hustle plays and trying to get rebounds and putbacks,” Young said.
Wright State’s pressure defense turned the game around. The Lions committed 19 of their 29 turnovers in the second half.
Despite the turnovers, Mount St. Joseph stayed in the game by making 8-of-14 3-pointers and shooting 53 percent from the field. David Mann led the Lions with 16 points, and Joel Scudder had 14.
“I want to congratulate Mount St. Joe’s,” Donlon said. “When you look at who we’ve played this year and how well we’ve guarded, their offensive numbers are the best in the 13 games we’ve now played. Those guys are non-scholarship players. It doesn’t mean they’re not good players. They play hard, and they’re getting nothing in return other than being able to play the game they love.”