Wright State’s road woes continued while their chances for a Horizon League regular-season championship may have ended.
The Raiders went scoreless for more than five minutes to start Friday’s game at IUPUI, and the offensive never fully recovered as the Jaguars pulled away for a 66-56 triumphat Indiana Famers Coliseum.
It was the third loss in last four road games for WSU and dropped the Raiders (21-9, 13-4 HL) out of first place, at least temporarily.
A Northern Kentucky win at UIC late Friday night would put the Norse alone in first place, while a Flames win would create a three-way tie heading into the final day of the regular season Sunday.
“Life’s not over,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said following the loss. “This is basketball. I won’t even watch the (NKU-UIC) game. I really don’t care. What I do care about are our players. I have to move past this, because if I don’t, they won’t.
“So I have to and then I help them, and we get ready to play Sunday.”
IUPUI (11-17, 8-9) avenged a 60-52 loss at WSU on Dec. 30 and won for the fourth time in five games.
WSU wraps the regular season Sunday at UIC, while the Jaguars will play host to NKU.
Here are five things to know about the Wright State loss:
The Raiders shot just 33.3 percent from the floor with leading scorers Loudon Love and Benzinger combing to go 4 of 19.
The offensive struggles offset what was otherwise a performance that pleased Nagy.
“Our kids played hard,” he said. “We out-rebounded a really good rebounding team by eight (36-28). They’re the second-leading offensive rebounding team in the league and we held them to three, while holding them to 40 percent (shooting).
“We did just about everything we could do,” he added. “We just weren’t good offensively. At some point after everything’s said, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket. We missed a dunk. We missed a lot of layups. You have to be able to convert those things.”
Freshman Everett Winchester came off the bench to lead the Raiders with 12 points while tying his career-high with seven rebounds.
“They were really in the passing lanes, making it hard for everyone to get open,” Winchester said. “A lot of things we wanted to go our way didn’t go our way. We fought hard, but it was just one of those days.”
IUPUI scored 18 of its points off 17 Wright State turnovers.
“It’s hard to go on the road and turn it over 17 times,” Nagy said. “If there’s any blame, it’s me. I spend so much time on defense and the focus on that, that sometimes we’re not as good offensively as we should be.
“And I think you have to give (IUPUI) some credit,” he added. “They’re good defensively. They’re really good. And they’ve been better of late.”
Ten of the turnovers came in the second half, including five in the final five minutes when the Raiders were desperate for scores.
After not committing a foul in the first half, WSU center Loudon Love was whistled for three in the first 2:03 of the second half, forcing him to the bench for several minutes.
Parker Ernsthausen picked up his third 36 seconds later as part of 16 whistled against the Raiders in the second half.
IUPUI took advantage by scoring 21 of its 39 second-half points at the foul line after making 2 of 5 in the first half.
T.J. Henderson finished 10 of 10 from the line to lead the Jaguars with 12 points, while D.J. McCall went 9 of 11 and scored 11.
After holding Cleveland State without a field goal for the final 8:56 of Monday’s 72-63 win, Wright State gave up a 3-pointer on the opening possession Friday and then held the Jaguars without another field goal for nearly eight minutes.
It added up to one field goal in a span 17:07.
The Jaguars didn’t reach double figures in points until just 8:42 remained in the first half, but Wright State wasn’t able to convert the defensive dominance into anything on the offensive end.
The game tipped at 11 a.m. as part of the “Readers are Leaders” program for area students. Surrounding districts bused more than 2,000 students to the game, and they made their presence felt, and piercingly heard, in an otherwise sparse crowd.
“I don’t even know if they knew what they were doing,” Benzinger said of the kids. “But I think it really helped (IUPUI) energy wise. When that freakin’ “SpongeBob Squarepants” theme song came on, they were yelling at the top of their lungs. It was incredible.”