Wright State seemed so in control of its game with Kent State that some fans started to pick up their belongings and head for the exits.
The Raiders, who once led by 16, still had a nine-point bulge with 2:41 to go.
But coach Scott Nagy never felt comfortable. His team had trouble scoring with any consistency the entire second half, and he knew points would be even tougher to generate over that final stretch.
“The end of the game probably stands out to everybody, just because of how it happened,” he said of the late-game collapse. “But really, we were just so bad offensively in the second half. That’s what put us in that position.
“We just struggled. As easy as things were for us in the first half — and I talked to the guys about that at halftime — they have to understand it doesn’t always go that way. You can’t be over-emotional. You have to get your emotions under control.”
The Golden Flashes outscored their hosts, 13-3, over the final 2:41, including two 3-pointers in the last 25 seconds, to pull out a stunning 72-71 victory Saturday.
The Raiders (3-1), who were one victory away from matching their best start in the Division I era (since 1987), went 10 of 33 from the field in the second half. They had a good look with a chance to win the game, but Bill Wampler, who had a team-high 18 points, missed a 15-footer from the baseline at the buzzer.
Here are five things we learned:
TAKING OWNERSHIP: Nagy wanted to take responsibility for the blown lead, though it was hard to see where he may have failed.
“I thought our kids played hard and wanted to win. We made some mistakes in the last two minutes, but most of them were my fault,” he said.
Asked to elaborate, Nagy said: “I just didn’t get them in the right plays. I didn’t have them prepared enough for those situations.”
Wampler felt the players were at fault.
“We just made some mistakes, a couple turnovers and a couple bad ‘helps’ (on defense) in spots. But they made some shots, too,” he said.
“They’re a veteran team. They know how to play. But we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
FURIOUS FINISH: The Raiders had a 70-66 lead when Wampler made two free throws with 35 seconds left, but Kent State’s Troy Simons swished a 3-pointer to make it 70-69.
Jaylon Hall, who had 15 points, was fouled with 23 seconds to go. Shooting the double-bonus, he made one of two attempts for a two-point edge. But Kent State’s Danny Pippen made a wide-open 3 from the corner with 10 seconds to go.
Nagy called a timeout after Cole Gentry had the ball knocked out of bounds on a drive with three seconds left, setting up Wampler’s final fling.
“In my hand, it felt good. I just left it short,” Wampler said.
LOVE STOPPED: Raider star center Loudon Love wasn’t much of a factor against Kent State’s athletic frontcourt, finishing with eight points and nine rebounds.
“He has those games where he struggles, and tonight was one of them,” Nagy said. “He never seemed settled, and when it gets like that, the most difficult thing then is, what do we run? We can’t go into him because he’s in a little bit of a funk, and it puts pressure on everything else.”
HAVING THEIR WAY: The Raiders went into the night out-rebounding foes by 14.3 per game. But Kent State (3-1), also a stout rebounding team, finished with a 38-34 edge.
COMING UP: The Raiders host Division-II Urbana at 7 p.m. Wednesday as part of the Gulf Coast Showcase, an event designed for mid-major programs. They’ll play Weber State at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, in the first of three games in Estero, Fla.
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