Raiders tame Panthers for first 2-0 start since 2007-08
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When the final buzzer sounded, Wright State Head Coach Billy Donlon left the court disappointed. Even a commanding win did little to satisfy the 35-year-old coach.
WSU defeated Eastern Illinois 56-44 in front of a crowd of 806 at EIU’s Lantz Arena Tuesday. The Raiders overcame a slow start to earn their first 2-0 start to a season since 2007-08.
But to earn a third straight win, the Raiders need to improve.
“We didn’t play well and we basically had a double-digit lead the whole night,” Donlon said. “Certainly were going to have to play a lot better.”
The Raiders came out of the locker room in an offensive lull and quickly found themselves down 7-2. But a 12-0 spurt gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night.
Freshman JT Yoho led WSU with 14 points off the bench and added 8 rebounds. It was the second straight game in double-figures for the forward from Solsberry, IN, who’s fast becoming a key player in Donlon’s rotation.
“JT can really shoot the basketball and he’s doing some good things inside,” Donlon said.
Yoho helped spur another 10-0 run later in the first half, and the Raiders left with a 32-17 lead at the break.
That offensive efficiency disappeared in the second half. After the break, the Raiders shot 35 percent (7-20) and turned the ball over more.
“17 turnovers in a game is not WSU basketball,” Donlon said. “We have to do better with that.”
The Panthers shot 53 percent in the second half, but suffocating defense from the Raiders limited them to only 19 shot attempts after intermission.
Donlon credited the defense of sophomore guard Kendall Griffin (11 points, five rebounds) for helping WSU maintain their lead.
“When we had to win a possession, we won it,” Donlon said of his team’s defense.
Griffin’s back-court mate, junior Matt Vest, played opportunistic defense and was credited with three steals. Vest also dropped six points and added eight rebounds.
The Raiders controlled the glass all game. They out-rebounded EIU 37-27, picking up 10 offensive rebounds in the process. All without the help of key big man Cole Darling, who left after six minutes with an undisclosed injury.
Darling will be evaluated and could return for the Raiders’ game against North Carolina A&T (Friday 7 p.m).
If Darling is unable to go, the Raiders will lean on sophomore forward Tavares Sledge, who returns after serving a two-game suspension for violating team rules.
While Donlon wants to see improvement from his team leading into the game, he admits the Raiders have come a long way since last season.
His squad is finding ways to win, even without playing their best.
“Last year’s time if we played this poorly, we’re not getting on the bus with a win.”