FAIRBORN — After getting smashed by 32 and 31 points in their two meetings this year, Green Bay refused to go meekly in a Horizon League first-round game at Wright State on Tuesday.
Maybe some pride kicked in.
Or perhaps the Raiders didn’t want to exert themselves too much given what’s coming next.
They led by only seven points with 12 minutes to go and 10 with eight minutes left. No one in the crowd of 2,597 was fretting, but a 3-28 team usually doesn’t put up that much of a fuss.
“They did what they had to do — slow the game down and take the air out of the ball,” coach Scott Nagy said. “It took all the energy out of the crowd, and it’s not an easy way to play.
“It just didn’t feel good. We’re used to flowing and playing faster. It was a very hard game.”
League freshman of the year Brandon Noel had his 11th double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds as the seventh-seeded Raiders pulled away for a 77-57 win.
After getting beaten on the boards by an average of 10 in the last four games, they finished with a 42-20 edge.
Trey Calvin had 14 points, and Tim Finke hit two 3′s in the first 68 seconds and scored 13.
“The first game of the tournament is always the hardest one,” Nagy said. “I think there’s some advantage to playing (in the first round) instead of sitting.”
The Raiders (18-14) will play at second-seeded Milwaukee (20-10) in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The game will be in the cozier Klotsche Center on campus, as opposed to cavernous UWM Panther Arena.
The Raiders swept both games this season, winning 78-74 in overtime on the road and 93-86 at home.
In the second game, the Panthers scored 26 in the first half and 60 in the second, cutting a 24-point deficit to five with a minute to go.
They grabbed 20 offensive rebounds in the first game and rallied from a 16-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to force OT.
They like to speed teams up with pressure. The more ragged, the better.
They lead the league in blocks at 5.6 per game and defensive field-goal percentage at 40.6. They average a league-high 15.4 turnovers, but they’re forcing 14 per game.
“It’ll be way different than this game,” Nagy said. “They play fast, and we play fast.”
He added: “I think everyone understands, once you get to the final eight, anybody can win.”
The Raiders learned that the hard way in the 2021 quarterfinals against the eighth-seeded Panthers, who prevailed, 94-92, in overtime at the Nutter Center in Loudon Love’s last game.
Playing without fans because of the pandemic, they had a seemingly safe, 72-48 lead with 6:26 to go, but they were outscored, 33-9, the rest of regulation and fizzled in OT.
“We played a good 35 minutes of that game, and the ending is something I want to forget completely,” said Finke, a sophomore starter that season.
The Panthers played fearlessly then as the underdog, and the Raiders want to adopt the same mindset.
“That’s what we said in the locker room,” Finke said. “Essentially, we have nothing to lose going in there. We’re just going to go play freely and play how we do.”
RAIDER WOMEN WIN: The ninth-seeded Wright State women topped eighth-seeded Oakland, 79-59, on the road as Cara VanKempen scored a career-high 24 points.
Emily Chapman had 12 points, Kacee Baumhower 11 and Isabelle Bolender 10.
The Raiders (8-23) have won six of their last 10 games and will play in the quarterfinals Thursday against top-seeded Green Bay.
MEN’S QUARTERFINALS: Sixth-seeded Robert Morris had a 14-point lead with 2:09 left, but IUPUI tied it with 10 seconds to go.
Michael Green III then hit a 3 for a 67-64 win.
Eighth-seeded Detroit Mercy clobbered visiting Purdue Fort Wayne, 85-52, as Antoine Davis scored 38 points.
He’s second all-time in scoring with 3,642 points, just 25 away from tying Pete Maravich’s NCAA record of 3,667.
Robert Morris plays at third-seeded Cleveland State in the quarterfinals. Detroit Mercy faces top-seeded Youngstown State.
No. 4 Northern Kentucky hosts No. 5 Oakland in another quarterfinal game.
Wright State at Milwaukee, 8 p.m., ESPN+, 980
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