Wright State looked to be on its way to shaking its early-season funk, building a 15-point lead in the first half and holding a 10-point halftime edge.
But the defensive breakdowns and spotty offense that have been prevalent so far resurfaced in the second half, and the Raiders fell to James Madison, 78-76, in the Naples Invitational on Tuesday.
They’ve lost four straight games — their longest skid since coach Billy Donlon’s last season in 2015-16 — and will play either Murray State or Long Beach State for seventh place at noon Wednesday.
But while the 1-4 record and 0-2 start in the event aren’t what coach Scott Nagy had envisioned, he’s seeing positive signs.
“It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” he said on his post-game radio show. “The tough part is, the result always makes you feel one way or another about yourself. Even if you played well and didn’t win, you feel crappy. And if you played poorly and won, you feel good. That’s ridiculous.
“For me, in terms of the process with this team, we took a step in the right direction.”
The Dukes (5-1), picked to finish fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association, scored the first 10 points of the second half for a 46-46 tie. And they took a 75-69 lead with 4:42 to go.
But Grant Basile made a layup, and Tim Finke knocked down a 3 to cut it to one.
Finke made a pair of free throws with 2:18 left for a 76-75 Raiders’ lead.
James Madison’s Charles Faldon, though, buried a 3 for a 78-76 edge with 1:23 to go.
Basile couldn’t connect on the front end of the 1-and-1 with 47 seconds left.
The Dukes missed two shots but retrieved the rebound each time. After a timeout with 7.9 seconds left, Alonzo Sule, a 60% free-throw shooter, was fouled with 6.1 seconds left.
He missed the 1-and-1, but in their rush to get downcourt, the Raiders committed a turnover, ending their hopes.
“It’s hard,” Nagy said. “Everyone knows it’s a game we should’ve won. We just should have. Late, we made some mistakes. Even there (at the finish), we should’ve had a layup.
“We had a couple bad fouls and put them on the free-throw line — those are the kinds of things we need to clean up. But you’ve got to get the ‘playing hard’ part first and then you can clean that stuff up. When you’re not playing hard, those things don’t even matter. But we played hard today.”
Nagy went with the same lineup for the second straight day, pairing guards Trey Calvin and Keaton Norris together. And while that duo struggled offensively — a combined 1 of 13 from the field on 0 of 8 on 3′s — the rest of the starters flourished.
Tanner Holden went 10 of 13 from the field and had 25 points. Basile had 19 on 9-of-13 shooting, and Finke chipped in 13.
A.J. Braun, a 6-foot-9 freshman from Fenwick High School, had nine points off the bench to go with eight Monday in his first action of the season.
Alex Huibregtse and Riley Voss were out for the second straight game with injuries.
Wright State vs. Murray State/Long Beach State, Noon, Flohoops.com/103.9