Wright State coach Scott Nagy has been grousing about his team’s occasionally lackluster defense despite a string of road wins and a gaudy record, certain it eventually would catch up to the Raiders.
In a 76-72 loss at UIC, it did.
The Flames shot 51.5 percent in the first half and 49.2 for the game in handing Wright State its first loss in seven road games and ending its eight-game winning streak overall.
All-Horizon League guard Tarkus Ferguson had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and forwards Michael Diggins (20 points) and Jordan Blount (16) dominated inside for UIC (7-12, 2-4), which ended a four-game losing skid Sunday.
“I told the players, it’s such a tremendous responsibility to be the top dog,” Nagy said on his post-game radio show. “When I watched our guys tonight, it looked like everyone was carrying about 1,000 pounds on their backs. I don’t know if it was the pressure of that or what.
“But even a team like UIC, playing us is going to bring out the best in them and force them to play more together than they have in the past. And they did.”
The Raiders (15-4, 5-1) were trying to notch only their second 6-0 start in conference play in 29 years as a league member, but they fell behind by 15 early in the second half before staging a furious rally.
Trailing by 12 with four minutes to go, they scored 10 straight points, cutting it to 72-70 on a free throw by Loudon Love.
After another defensive stop, Cole Gentry missed a 3. Jaylon Hall then snagged the offensive rebound but couldn’t convert on a drive.
Godwin Boahen, a 90-percent free-throw shooter, was fouled with 25 seconds left and ended the scoring drought by making both free throws for a 74-70 lead.
Gentry hit a layup with 17 seconds to go. But Marcus Ottey made two foul shots with 11 ticks left, and Gentry missed a 3 as time ran out.
“You look at the last three and a half minutes and how hard our guys played, if we would have played like that to start the game …,” Nagy said.
“But think about it — it’s the middle of January, and it’s our first road loss. This team has been unbelievable. I’m very proud of them. I’m not gonna throw them under the bus. It was a frustrating game for everybody, mostly our kids.”
Love had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Raiders, who shot just 36.4 percent, including 7 of 24 on 3-pointers. Bill Wampler had 16 points, Tanner Holden 14 and Gentry 13.
Wright State squandered a chance to take firm control of the league. Youngstown State (11-7, 4-1), picked to finish sixth, is alone in second, while Northern Kentucky (12-6, 4-2), the league co-champs with the Raiders last season, is in a three-way tie for third.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.