Wright State couldn’t maintain an eight-point halftime advantage and was overcome by a late Northern Illinois rally, falling 65-59 in Sunday’s finale of the men’s college basketball NIU Showcase at DeKalb, Ill.
It was the second straight setback for the Raiders, who suffered a similar late fate in Saturday’s 72-67 loss to Cal State Northridge. WSU defeated South Dakota 77-69 in its Showcase opener on Friday.
JT Yoho led the Raiders with 16 points and Joe Thomasson added 15 points and seven rebounds. Wright State led 39-31 at halftime. The host Huskies (3-0) were led by Aaric Armstead’s 18 points. WSU was outrebounded 35-25. NIU also converted 20 of 32 free throws to just 7 of 9 for WSU.
The Raiders led for all but 6:19 but didn’t make a field goal in the last five minutes when NIU rallied.
“There’s a lot to improve on but there’s also a lot of positive takeaways from it and we’ll move on to the next one,” said WSU coach Billy Donlon.
That will be a daunting challenge because WSU (1-2) is at Kentucky (2-0) at 8 p.m. on Friday at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Kentucky was upset by Wisconsin in last season’s national semifinals and will host defending national champion Duke on Tuesday. Luke Kennard of Franklin High School is a freshman at Duke.
Kentucky was ranked a co-No. 1 and in the nation with North Carolina in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 2 to North Carolina by the Associated Press. It would be the second time for WSU to play the top-ranked team in the nation. Wright State lost 88-61 at No. 1 Michigan State in December 2000. The Raiders also lost to No. 3 Kentucky in 1996 and No. 3 Ohio State in 2011.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge, obviously,” said Donlon.
Wright State also lost to UK in 1992 and ’98. WSU’s home opener is Nov. 24 against Mount St. Joseph.