The Wright State record for consecutive free throws might have meant more to his teammates than it did to Cole Gentry.
The junior point guard said of one of his cohorts in particular, “Bill Wampler was kind of on Streak Watch.”
That’s why Gentry knew he needed four to tie and five to break Jesse Deister’s all-time mark of 47 in a row at IUPUI on Sunday.
He made his first two attempts early in the second half, and the Raiders were well on their way to a 79-74 victory when he stepped to the line for the double-bonus with 37 seconds to go.
He made the first, but his streak ended at 46 when the second bounced off the rim.
“I was aware of it before the game, but I wasn’t thinking about it on the fourth one,” he said. “A few guys on the bench told me in the locker room I was one away from tying it, but I was just happy we won.
“I’m not really worried about breaking records. It would be nice. But I’d rather have the win and not the record.”
Gentry can start on a new streak against Oakland at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first of five straight home games. The Raiders (13-11, 7-4) and Grizzlies (11-13, 7-4) are tied for second in the Horizon League, one game behind Northern Kentucky (18-6, 8-3).
“I hear all the time, ‘The next one is a big one.’ And it’s true,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. “That’s why we’re focused only on the next one. Both teams are tied for second, and they’re going to come after us.
“I feel good about five straight at home, but you still have to take care of business and win those games.”
Wright State is 151st out of 353 Division-I teams in the NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool), second in the league behind No. 117 Northern Kentucky.
IUPUI (187th) is the only other conference team in the top 200.
Among the six schools with .500 league records or better, the Raiders have the best home-road split through the end of the regular-season with just two of their last seven games in opposing gyms.
NKU, which visits Wright State on Feb. 15, has four of its final seven at home, Oakland three of seven, IUPUI (6-5) three of seven, Detroit (6-5) two of seven, UIC (6-5) two of seven and Green Bay (5-5) four of eight.
“It’s nice to be back home,” Gentry said. “But Coach always says you don’t win just because you’re home. It does make a difference because you’re more comfortable, but you still have to play good defense, rebound and communicate to play how you’re supposed to play. Teams in this league can win on the road.”
Two straight losses by NKU has made the league race much tighter.
“Usually, by this time, the league is a little more spread out,” Nagy said. “There’s probably only two teams (Youngstown State and Cleveland State) that can’t win the championship at this point, so I think everybody is talking about the same thing.”
The win over IUPUI was the perfect tonic for a team coming off its worst shooting effort of the season. The Raiders hit only 21.8 percent from the field against UIC but improved to 47.2 against the Jaguars.
The bounce-back performance wasn’t a complete surprise to Nagy, though.
“When you lose, it makes you lock in more and you become more desperate,” he said. “Desperate teams don’t play (overly) careful. And when you don’t play careful, you play better.”
Wheelersburg is 18-0 and ranked No. 2 in the Ohio Division III poll.