CHICAGO – It is February and Wright State goes to Chicago to face University of Illinois-Chicago as they try to secure their seeding for the Horizon League Tournament. The game goes back and forth, and then heads into overtime.
It happened last year when the Raiders came to Chicago in a five-way tie and a win would have put them in third place. UIC beat them in double overtime 69-66 and the Raiders wound up in seventh place.
A different ending as Wright State (18-8, 11-2 HL) secured a second place seed in the Horizon League Tournament by defeating the Flames 74-64 in overtime.
In the second half the UIC (9-16, 4-8 HL) Flames were in control with a lead as big as five points twice in the first six minutes. With just 36 seconds left in the game Wright State’s DaShaun Wood hit a 3-pointer to give the Raiders their biggest lead of the game to that point, 58-55.
All the Raiders had to do was hold on for 30 more seconds and they would get first win at UIC since 1999.
With just 23 seconds left UIC’s Josh Mayo fired a crisp pass to Robert Bush who sank a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime. Wright State’s players must have gotten chills as their minds flashed back to last year’s overtime nightmare loss.
In overtime the Raiders came to life for the first time in the game as Drew Burleson took a pass underneath by Wood and put in a lay up in the first 30 seconds. A few seconds later Wood hits a 3-pointer, followed by another 3-pointer by Vaughn Duggins and when the dust cleared Wright State stayed within a half game of first place Butler.
Their win sets up the big showdown with Butler on Saturday night at home against Butler where they seek to revenge a 72-42 butt whipping they received at Butler in early January. Since then the Raiders have gone 9-1.
Acting UIC Coach Mark Coomes was disappointed his team could not close the deal, but saw some positives in losing to the hottest team in the Horizon League.
“They (Wright State) are in second place in our league. They went to Detroit and won, They went to Green Bay and won. They went to Loyola and won. We played them pretty good tonight, but not quite good enough and that is what hurts,” said Coomes.
Wood who led all scorers with 24 points knew this game was going to be very tough.
“They beat one of the best teams in the league (Butler) and we knew coming in here it was going to be a dog fight. We knew it was going to comedown to maybe the last procession, said Wood who was talking a mile a minute after the game. “In overtime are players just kind of realized that this was our season. We didn’t want to take a step back, we wanted to take a step up.”
This game was long on defense and short on good offense as the Raiders shot just 40.3 percent (27-67), but UIC shot an even poorer 32.4 percent (22-68)
Wright State Coach Brad Brownell just happy to get out with a win, but he was not deceived by the 10 point margin of victory.
“They controlled the game for most of the game. I think we were a little disappointed that we weren’t playing a little better. A lot of that had to do with how UIC was playing,” explained Brownell. “In overtime, one or two plays can just change it. It is only five minutes and if you get a couple baskets on a spurt and get a run, then all of a sudden the other team gets a foul, it looks like you won the overtime by a 100 but it was really a lot closer than that.”
After Wood, Burleson and Duggins both had 13 points. Jordan Pleiman put in 11 for the Raiders.
For the Flames Othyus Jeffers put in 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Jovan Stefanov and Mayo scored 13. Bush also scored 10 points.
*UIC’s Coach Jimmy Collins is still at home recovering from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. There is no indication as to when he might be back.
*After the game Coomes predicted Wright State would defeat Butler on Saturday night.
*To make sure the Raiders are rested for the Butler game, they are flying back to Dayton on a charter plane. They bused up and originally planned to bus back, but athletic director Mike Cusack decided the players needed their rest with first place on the line on Saturday night.
*UIC leads the all-time series with Wright State 20-13.
*UIC’s next game is Saturday at Detroit at 2 p.m.
*Wright State’s next game is the Horizon League’s showdown of the year on Saturday at home against Butler at 7 p.m.