Wright State edges Milwaukee, clinches share of Horizon League title

Wright State celebrates a win over Milwaukee on Saturday night. The win enabled the Raiders to share the Horizon League title with NKU. CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State celebrates a win over Milwaukee on Saturday night. The win enabled the Raiders to share the Horizon League title with NKU. CONTRIBUTED

Scott Nagy admits it’s sometimes easy for him to focus on what’s going wrong. But as Wright State was squandering a 14-point second-half lead at Milwaukee with a Horizon League title on the line, the third-year coach saw no reason for doom and gloom.

“Every huddle, even when they were making runs, we were all positive. As I told the guys, ‘Even I was positive for once,’” Nagy said on his post-game radio show.

»RELATED: WSU women win first outright league title

The Raiders rewarded Nagy’s faith in them by scoring the game’s last four points on free throws to pull out a 65-62 road win Saturday night and capture a share of the crown — the first time they’ve finished atop the standings since a co-championship with Butler 12 years ago.

They’re 19-12 overall and 13-5 in the conference — the same league record as Northern Kentucky, which squeaked out an 86-82 win at Green Bay earlier in the day.

But the Raiders earned the first seed in the conference tournament on tiebreakers — they split the season series with NKU but had a better record against third-place Oakland — and will host eighth-seeded IUPUI (16-15, 8-10) in the second game of a double-header at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Wright State women also earned the No. 1 seed and will play in the quarterfinals against Oakland at 5 p.m.

“I can’t even tell you how proud I am of our guys,” Nagy said. “It’s so much fun to watch this. I’m really happy for our seniors, for it to happen in their last year.”

DeAndre Abram made two free throws with 54 seconds left to give Milwaukee a 62-61 lead. Loudon Love then made one of two foul shots with 36 seconds to go to tie the game.

After Mark Hughes made a steal and was fouled with 12 seconds left, he connected on one of two free throws for a one-point lead.

Milwaukee — playing without star guard Darius Roy, the team leader in scoring (15.8) and assists (4.1) — set up a play after calling timeout with 7.8 seconds to go. But Bryce Barnes was called for traveling while being defended by Alan Vest with 3.8 seconds left.

Cole Gentry made two foul shots with three seconds to go for a three-point edge. And the Panthers missed a hurried 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Love scored 13 points — his 17th straight game in double figures — and grabbed eight rebounds. Parker Ernsthausen had 10 points and five assists, and Bill Wampler had 10 points.

The Raiders made 13 of 21 shots in the second half and five of their six 3-pointers, while the Panthers (9-22, 4-14) went 16 of 25 from the field after halftime.

“We couldn’t stop them in the second half, and they couldn’t stop us. It’s been a struggle every time we play them,” Nagy said.

Leading 25-21 at halftime, Hughes made a 3-pointer just 13 seconds into the second half, and the Raiders surged to a 52-38 advantage on a Skyelar Potter trey with 11:36 left.

But the Panthers, who ended the season on an 11-game losing streak, went on a 10-0 run to chop the deficit to four with 7:09 left.

They grabbed a 58-57 lead with three minutes. But the Raiders refused to buckle and made enough clutch plays to prevail.

Maybe it had something to do with those upbeat timeout huddles.

“I’m happy for the players. I’m going to get another chance to do this, but the seniors aren’t. This was it for them,” Nagy said.

“I hate that we’re sharing it — because you don’t want to share those things. But congratulations to Northern Kentucky. They’ve had a great year, too. But we’re going to do everything we can do to make this a habit.”

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