A day after rallying in the second half to beat South Dakota, the Wright State Raiders digested a dose of their own medicine Saturday night in a 72-67 loss to Cal State Northridge at the Northern Illinois Showcase in DeKalb, Ill.
Micheal Warren scored 21 points and Northridge finished with a 15-4 run to sink the Raiders (1-1), who conclude the season-opening, round-robin event today against host Northern Illinois at 3:30 p.m.
“We just didn’t close the game,” WSU coach Billy Donlon said. “Sort of credit them, but we were bad on both sides of the ball in the last six minutes.”
Wright State raced to a 12-2 lead and led 33-27 at the half. The Raiders expanded the lead to 61-51 with 6:11 remaining, but the shots stopped falling and the Matadors wouldn’t go away.
Northridge tied it 63-all on a Warren jumper and took a 65-64 lead when Tavrion Dawson scored at the 1:05 mark. Jason Richardson followed with a steal and layup and made two free throws after another steal.
“When you’re up 10 with six minutes left, if you continue to score, you win. And if you continue to get stops, you win,” Donlon said. “We didn’t do either.”
The Matadors won it at the free-throw line, where they made 25 of 33 to Wright State’s 5 of 9.
Warren sank 11 of 12 free throws, including 5 of 6 down the stretch. Northridge was 18 of 23 from the stripe in the second half.
Donlon, as might be expected, was slightly puzzled by the free-throw disparity on a neutral court.
“Here’s what I’ll say,” he said. “They went zone, so you don’t foul as much in zone, to be fair. But I did think, truthfully, the way we were defending for the first 35 minutes was pretty much the same. They made some calls they hadn’t been making, which is their right.
“It really had nothing to do with the whistle and everything to do with what we didn’t do. I don’t even know if we deserved an ‘F’ for the last six minutes. No question, we were bad. We were all bad.”
Four Raiders scored in double figures led by Grant Benzinger, who went 5 of 6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points. Joe Thomasson added 14, Mark Alstork and JT Yoho 13.
WSU’s roster is not loaded with lock-down defenders, but Donlon still thinks the defense can be better. Northridge scored on 19 of its last 20 possessions as the issue was being decided.
“For 35 minutes defense wasn’t a problem,” Donlon said. “But it’s definitely an issue, there’s no question. We have some holes.”
Northridge shot 50 percent from the field and was even hotter in the second half, making 13 of 22 shots.
Positives? With Benzinger finding the range, the Raiders sank 12 of 22 from behind the arc. Benzinger had been 1 for 8 from the field in Friday’s win.
“You knew it was coming,” Donlon said. “He’s not going to have very many bad shooting nights. He works too hard at it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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