Wright State’s 68-61win at Illinois-Chicago on Saturday obviously thrilled coach Billy Donlon. But it also hurt him a little to know he delivered the final blow in what was a difficult regular season for his good friend Howard Moore, the Flames’ head coach who endured a 6-24 overall record and 1-15 mark in the Horizon League.
“I don’t know if anybody in coaching can do a better job than what he’s done this year,” Donlon said. “They just don’t make them any better than Howard Moore, and the way his kids have played and competed every night is a credit to him and his staff.
“You’re going to have years like this,” Donlon continued. “Some of the hall of fame coaches went through tough times, too. Coach Moore is phenomenal. He’s a really good coach, and a class man.”
Moore, who was recruited to play at Northwestern by Donlon’s father, Bill Sr., is in his fourth season at UIC. Unless the Flames can rip off four wins in a row in the league tournament, they will finish with a single-digit win total for the third time in Moore’s four seasons.
Howell happy: Freshman guard Mark Howell saw a big spike in playing time Saturday afternoon as he was on the floor for 15 minutes.
Howell had logged 20 minutes combined in the last 17 games.
“This week in practice, I kind of knew I was going to get in there,” said Howell, who tied his career-high with five points while adding two assists, a steal and a rebound.
“I just went out there and took advantage of the minutes I had,” he added. “I’m happy with how I played. It felt really good.”
Streak stat: Saturday’s win gave the Raiders their second four-game winning streak of the season, one shy of the longest run during Donlon’s tenure.
“We’re playing our best ball right now,” senior guard Matt Vest said. “That’s kind of how our league is. You’re going to lose a couple in a row, but we’ve put four wins in a row together and we’re getting toward our peak right now. It’s perfect timing going into tournament play, and hopefully we’ll do some special things.”
Wright State won five in a row in a 13-day span from Dec. 30, 2012, to Jan. 11, 2013.
Rallying Raiders: After starting the year 0-9 in games they trailed at halftime, the Raiders strung together three consecutive second-half comebacks. They trailed Oakland by six before winning 72-71 Feb. 16. They were behind Detroit 30-29 before coming back for a 65-61 triumph Feb. 21. And Saturday they were down 33-32 before posting the 68-61 victory.
Wright State fell behind by as many as 13 against Oakland and nine versus Detroit. The team’s biggest deficit Saturday was five.
Five with five: Five players fouled out of Saturday’s game as the referees called 50 fouls on the two teams.
WSU’s Cole Darling fouled out for a team-high eighth time season, while Jerran Young suffered his fifth disqualification.
Hayden Humes, Jake Wiegand and Jordan Harks took early seats on the bench for the Flames.
The only other WSU game this season that featured more fouls was Nov. 30 vs. Western Carolina, when 56 were called.