DAYTON – Raider fans were wondering, so were the parents of Wright State‘s Drew Burleson, his sisters were wondering and so were the writers that cover the Raiders.
They were all trying to figure out how Burleson could average 12.5 ppg as a junior and then his senior year in the first 14 games couldn’t crack double digits.
Tonight the wondering about Burleson ceased as he broke out and scored 18 points including three for three from 3-point land to lead Wright State (9-6, 2-0 HL) to a 76-62 victory over University of Illinois-Chicago.
Burleson attributed his break-out to feeling more comfortable with the system.
“It takes a little time to get acclimated to a new system. Throughout the season I have become more and more confident with the new offense the coach has put in,” explained Burleson. “I think I am trying to find my niche right now and it is starting show through.”
As Burleson was breaking-out Wright State’s Jordan Pleiman continued to improve his game as he put in 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against a much taller UIC (7-9, 2-1 HL).
One of most amazing stats from this game is that the small Raiders out-rebounded UIC 36-23 for the game.
One reason for that given by Wright State’s Coach Brad Brownell is that with the Raiders shooting such a high percentage for the game (54.7 percent) there were less opportunities for the Flames to get defensive rebounds.
UIC’s Acting Head Coach Mark Coomes thought it came down to Raiders quickness.
“Quickness to the ball is everything and having a nose for the ball is everything,” said Coomes.
After a lay up by UIC’s Othyus Jeffers to start the game at the 18:24 mark, Burleson hit a 3-pointer 21 seconds later to give Wright State a 3-2 lead and the Raiders never looked back keeping the lead for the rest of the game.
Wright State finally pushed the lead up to 22 points at 41-19 on a lay up by DeShaun Wood who was fouled by Jeffers and made the foul shot to complete the three point play.
The Flames got it back down to 20 points at the half on a jumper by Scott Vandermeer.
Wright State came out and pushed the lead up to 25 points at the 9:21 mark which was their biggest lead of the game.
The Flames did not get the deficit under 20 points until there was 2:12 left in the game when Robert Bush hit a 3-pointer to get the score down to 7-54.
UIC popped in three more 3-pointers as Wright State backed off a little on defense to avoid fouling to close the gap down 14 points when the buzzer sounded.
The Raiders ended up going 29-53, while holding UIC to 40.4 percent (21-53).
Jeffers scored 19 points to lead the Flames, TJ Gray scored 14 points and Bush put in 11 points.
For the Raiders both Wood and Todd Brown scored 12 points. Wood led the game with seven assists.
*UIC Coach Jimmy Collins was operated on today for a stomach aneurism. Coomes reported that it went well and he could go home tonight from the hospital.
*UIC leads the all-time series 20-13
*UIC’s next game is on January 10th at home against Butler at 7 p.m.
*Wright State’s next game is Saturday at Butler at 1 p.m.