DAYTON – At the half Wright State led the visiting University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 35-29.
Former Wright State player and radio color commentator Dave Dinn pointed out that if the Raiders came out strong the first five minutes of the half they could put the Panthers away, if not it could turn out to be a tough night.
Milwaukee (8-18, 5-9 HL) didn’t score a point for the first 4:47 minutes of the second half as Wright State defense went into lock-down mode and their offense went on a 17-0 run to easily defeat the Panthers 76-50.
The Raiders’ defense held Milwaukee to 20 percent shooting (4-20) in the second half, including 1-10 from 3-point land. For the game the Panthers did not have a single player score in double figures.
In the locker room at half time Wright State Coach Brad Brownell stressed defense as the key to completing this game for a win.
“I just told them we were going to win this game defensively. That we needed to come out and guard at a high level and try to stem their run, explained Brownell.
The Raiders’ defense was so good the expected Milwaukee run never came.
“When you shoot 20 percent in a half, that’s just not going to get it done, especially when you play a team as good as Wright State,” said Milwaukee Coach Rob Jeter.
“This time of year you can’t beat yourself. We had way too many turnovers. We started the second half with two turnovers and I think in our first 10 processions we might have had seven or five turnovers. We had 20 for the game. You can’t beat a team of this caliber turning the ball over that many times.”
In the first 10 minutes of the first half it was a different story.
Milwaukee went up 3-0 on a 3-pointer by Paige Paulsen. Wright State’s Drew Burleson came back with a jumper 30 seconds later to make it a 3-2 Panther lead.
Milwaukee exploited several defensive break-downs by the Raiders to maintain a small lead that they got up as high as six points when Kevin Massiah slipped by two Raider defenders to slam home a thundering dunk at the 7:51 mark to make it 23-17
Wright State (17-8, 10-2 HL) then rolled off 15 straight points including 11 points from DaShaun Wood to take a 32-23 lead.
A jumper and then a 3-pointer by the Panthers’ Roman Gentry got the lead down to five points, which is the spread that the Raiders took into the locker room at the half.
This game was the fifth straight win for the Raiders but it was also the 100th career win for Wright State Coach Brad Brownell.
Brownell didn’t dwell on his accomplishment; he was just very pleased with the Raiders’ play tonight.
“I think we played exceptionally well defensively in the second half and it was one of our better games offensively as well in terms of efficiency with our assist to turnover ratio, baskets to field goal percentage,” explained a pleased Brownell. “I thought we clicked in a lot of ways. It is one of those nights we really had things going and they were probably a half-step off.”
Wood led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Wright State’s Todd Brown with 17 points and Burleson with 15 points.
*Tonight’s win for Wright State guarantees them of at least a three seed in the Horizon League Tournament and at least a first round bye.
*When Jeter was asked to compare Wright State and Butler he said they were both very good teams, but did not offer an opinion as to which team might win on Saturday night, but he did say he might watch. “They are one and two (in the Horizon League) and they are going to get a chance to play. If we are not playing that night I will be in front of my computer watching that game.”
*Milwaukee leads the all-time series with Wright State 19-15. The Panthers have won 11 of the last 13.
*Milwaukee’s next game is at home on February 14th against Loyola at 8 p.m.
*Wright State’s next game is at UIC on Wednesday at 8 p.m.