Wright State gave 3,795 spectators at the Nutter Center a here-we-go-again feeling after a 13-point second half lead was wiped out by IUPUI, which pulled even with 5:40 to go.
The Raiders had been 0-for-6 in games decided by seven points or fewer this year, and their fans weren’t exactly eager to watch them strain through another close one.
But Bill Wampler broke the tie with a corner 3-pointer, and clutch foul shooting paved the way for a much-needed 72-64 Horizon League victory Sunday afternoon.
Wampler, coming off the bench for the first time this year, scored 22 points, and Cole Gentry had 20 while going 10-for-10 from the foul line.
Loudon Love, playing on a sprained ankle that coach Scott Nagy said is “swollen like a balloon,” had 10 points. Mark Hughes also had 10, while Parker Ernsthausen tied his career high with five assists.
Coming off an overtime defeat to UIC , the Raiders couldn’t afford to start 0-2 at home in the league. And they handled crunch time with poise, making 10 of their last 12 free throws while ending the game on a 15-7 run.
Nagy admitted to being concerned when his team suddenly found itself in a tight tussle.
“Let’s face it, almost every single one of our last five losses, we’ve had the lead in the second half. And against Mississippi State, we were tied in the second half. Our guys could have easily let (their minds) go there, and they didn’t. They made some plays to win the game instead of lose it,” he said.
The Raiders (7-8, 1-1) led by only four with just over one minute left when IUPUI’s Grant Weatherford fouled while pursuing a loose ball and was tagged with a technical.
Gentry made four straight free throws to send the Jaguars (8-7, 0-2) tumbling to their fourth straight loss.
And while it’s troublesome to squander a late lead again, the junior point guard said: “That’s college basketball. They’re a good team. We knew that coming in. They had some good wins in the non-conference.
“In the same way we made a run on them, they were going to make a run on us. We kind of had to get settled down again, and we opened it back up.”
The Raiders launched 40 three-pointers against UIC, making 11. A slumping Wampler was 2-for-10, part of the reason he surrendered his starting spot.
But they were 6-for-16 from the arc against IUPUI — their fewest attempts this season. And Wampler recovered his touch, going 3-for-7.
“When I went back and watched the film, we could have easily cut out 10 of those,” Nagy said.
“We have guys who can shoot 3’s. But I told them, ‘If you’re not shooting 40 percent’ — which most of our guys aren’t — ‘you need to be shooting less 3’s and better ones.’ That’s what happened.”