For someone in the midst of a shooting slump, Wright State’s Bill Wampler didn’t exactly get the start he wanted against Northern Kentucky in a battle of the Horizon League’s top two teams Friday.
The Raiders’ leader in 3-pointers had missed his previous nine attempts — 0 of 2 against Detroit, 0 of 3 against Oakland and 0 of 4 in the second half at IUPUI — and his first trey from the corner early in the game sailed over everything.
“I airballed it pretty bad,” he said with a sheepish grin.
But with his team in desperation mode, he went on a torrid stretch. He scored 13 straight points for the Raiders from 5:11 to 2:50 of the first half — making three 3s, a mid-range jumper and a layup without a miss — to help cut a 16-point deficit to six. He finished with a career-best 29 points in the 81-77 victory.
“Bill had a tough start. But then he hit that one 3, and he really got going,” coach Scott Nagy said. “Obviously, we really needed it at that moment. He had some big points there in the first half.”
It was a must-win scenario for the Raiders, who are now tied for first with NKU at 10-4 with four games left. UIC and Green Bay are tied for third at 8-6.
“They went on a big run, and Coach gave us a little gut-check in the (timeout) huddle,” said Wampler, who sat out last season after transferring from Drake. “It was like, ‘Do you guys really want to be here?’ He knew we wanted to be there, and we just had to turn it around.
“Guys started looking for me, especially because they saw the ball go in the basket. They saw it in my eyes, and I was hollering for the ball. I wanted to shoot it.”
The 6-foot-6 junior made 10 of 14 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3. He also had the last field goal of the game, snagging a rebound and scoring on a put-back to break a tie with 1:14 to go.
His previous career high as a Raider was 26 in the season opener against Western Carolina. He once scored 27 for Drake.
Even when he’s misfiring, though, he has his teammates’ admiration.
“He really works,” Parker Ernsthausen said. “He talks about how his preparation is the same going into every game, and I respect that.
“He had a couple bad games in a row, and maybe you’d want to change things up or throw the towel in. But he’s always the first one on the floor for games. Him and I ride together, and he gets out there at 5:50 (for a 7 p.m. start). He deserves everything that went in.”
Ernsthausen also provided a much-needed spark. The 6-11 senior tied his career-high for 3-pointers with three in the first 5:20 of the game.
His first one rattled around the rim, hit high on the backboard and dropped through. His next two were pure. As the fans roared, he punched the air and let out a primal scream.
He had been 5 for 29 from the arc in league play.
“Parker knocking down three 3’s was big because we had to at least match them, and Parker helped us do that,” Nagy said.
The Raiders (16-11), who have won eight of their last nine games, were in awe of the crowd support. They drew a season-high 6,233 fans, which included about 1,000 Norse backers.
“It reminded me when I played at Wichita State. They sold that place out every time,” Wampler said. “It was just a great environment and great student section. Actually, NKU traveled really well, which was fun. It was kind of a hostile environment, too.
“Our fans were awesome. It would be great if everyone was there every single week. That’s something we’re building toward as a program. Winning games like this is a good step toward putting butts in the seats.”