Men’s Basketball: Raiders lose emotional rivalry contest at Miami
OXFORD, Ohio – Wright State forward AJ Pacher had to hold back tears after scoring 15 points in a 59-56 losing effort at Miami Sunday.
“It sucks,” Pacher said.
The Raiders (5-7) have lost four in a row and remain winless (0-7) on the road this year. WSU had won three in a row over the RedHawks as Miami last topped the Raiders in 2009.
This season is the first time since 2002-03 that the Raiders have started the road slate 0-7. In that season, WSU failed to win a road contest the entire season.
“The record is what it is, that is my responsibility,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “That is not on the kids in the locker room. Our record is not where it should be.”
Pacher said the game felt like a rivalry contest.
“It is like a conference game,” Pacher said.
Sunday was the fifth time in seven road contests the Raiders were within a possession in the final minutes of the game.
“We have a good basketball team and we’ll see where we are when it matters in March,” Donlon said. “Tonight, we were right there.”
There were 41 turnovers between the two squads.
It was just the second win of the year for Miami who is led by second-year head coach John Cooper.
“This is a team we play every year, it is a program that we respect, I hope they respect us too,” Cooper said. “Certainly you want to win this game. Heck, we haven’t beaten them since 2009 and Billy does a terrific job.”
The Raiders trailed the RedHawks 34-29 at halftime. WSU came out with strong defense in the second half and prevented Miami from scoring in the first five minutes of the half. Neither team led by more than five the entire game.
The teams traded buckets for much of the second half. With 1:10 remaining, Pacher scored in the paint to give WSU a 56-55 lead.
Miami’s Quinten Rollins tied the game with a free throw 21 seconds later. On his second free throw, WSU’s Matt Vest fumbled the rebound that went out of bounds. On Miami’s ensuing possession, Will Felder scored a pair of free throws to give the RedHawks a 57-55 lead.
Pacher had a chance to tie the game on the line with 20 seconds left. He made his first attempt but missed his second. He followed his miss with a rebound and got back to the line. He missed the front end of the one-and-one and fouled out going for the ensuing rebound.
Pacher took Sunday’s loss particularly hard, but Donlon said he’d give his leading scorer a hug following the game.
“I am going to promise him he didn’t lose us the game,” Donlon said. “In fact, he gave us a chance to win the game. Down late, we ran some stuff that got him layups. He caught it, he finished, he went up and scored. He doesn’t make those and we don’t have a chance to win.”
Miami finished making two out of four free throws giving WSU two opportunities to at least tie the game.
Chrishawn Hopkins missed a layup with nine seconds left and Reggie Arceneaux’s 3-point attempt did not get off before the buzzer.
Hopkins made his WSU debut after sitting out 21 months following transferring from Butler. He made his impact known early as he had a steal and an easy layup in his first minute of play.
He settled down and scored just four points and had four turnovers but he was excited his wait is finally over.
“Once I got on the court, I was just ready to get back to playing,” Hopkins said. “After that, we were just trying to make plays to win and we didn’t execute at the end.”
The Raiders return home after their four game road trip Thursday to host Eastern Illinois. The Nutter Center will be a sight for sore eyes come Thursday.
“Everybody is chasing a dream and sometimes to get to that pot of gold, you have to go through a hurricane or two and right now, we’re in the middle of some category five hurricanes,” Donlon said.