League’s best ‘out-toughs’ Wright State

Matt Vest attempts a shot with Green Bay close behind. Photo by Brittany Robinson, Staff Photographer.

Justin Boggs, Sports Writer

After Wright State’s 79-69 loss to Green Bay on Friday, Raiders forward Cole Darling summed the contest up simply.

“We got out-toughed and they got all the hustle plays. Especially on our home court, we can’t allow that to happen,” he said.

The loss was the first for the Raiders in the Nutter Center for the 2013-14 campaign. The near capacity crowd of 6,600 tried to rally the Raiders back from several double-digit deficits only to fall short every time.

“We knew it was going to be a great environment, the Nutter Center was rocking,” Green Bay coach Brian Wardle said. “It was loud, I had to burn some timeouts. I thought you saw two Horizon League teams competing at a high level. And we were able to come out on the lucky end on some shots and got some loose balls.”

The Raiders fall to 3-2 in conference play, but Green Bay improves to 4-0 and is the last unbeaten squad in Horizon League play.

“Credit Green Bay, they came in with a determined mind to beat us,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “That was a team that was ready. They were ready to come in here and get a jump ahead on other people to win this league.”

Donlon gave Green Bay an “A” for its toughness while giving his squad an “F.”

While the Raiders did what they wanted with Phoenix guard Keifer Sykes for most of the game, the Raiders did not have an answer for Phoenix center Alec Brown who had a game high 24 points.

Sykes, the Phoenix’s lead scorer, only scored five in the first half but came alive late in the second to help preserve Green Bay’s win.

“I thought the game plan from a Keifer Sykes standpoint was effective,” said Donlon. “A player like that, you’re not going to stop for 40. But we wanted them to make 3-point shots to beat us and they took four [attempts].”

Brown set the trend early as he dove for a loose ball and scored on an open layup nine seconds into the contest.

“The opening tip play, we tip it out, there is your first 4-foot loose ball we don’t get,” Donlon said. “That was the way the game went. They (Green Bay) were very determined to come in and win a game.”

Wright State’s last lead came with 8:33 left in the first half when Jerran Young’s highlight-dunk gave WSU a two-point lead.

Later in the first half, Green Bay went on a 7-0 run to take a 39-29 lead with 1:43 left in the first half.

Darling and Miles Dixon responded with seven points late in the half to cut Green Bay’s lead to 39-36 at halftime.

After AJ Pacher scored a free throw to cut the Phoenix lead to two, Green Bay went up 11 with a 9-0 run early in the second.

Later in the second, Wright State took advantage of Brown taking a breather and went on a 9-0 run to cut Green Bay’s lead to one. Once again, 6,600 fans clad in white t-shirts tried their best to lift WSU over the proverbial hump.

“It came down to stops and we just didn’t get the ones we needed at critical times,” Darling said.

That hump was tough to climb. The Raiders kept the Phoenix within reach. With 1:29 left, Pacher hit a pair of huge free throws that cut Green Bay’s lead to three.

After Green Bay ran out the shot clock, Greg Mays jammed home a huge dunk to give Green Bay the 73-68 advantage with 59 seconds left which sent that crowd to the parking lots.

“Our guys were resilient and made some plays to win the game,” Wardle said.

The Raiders only have to wait 15 days to get revenge on the Phoenix.

“We’ll eat some humble pie but we won’t talk about this game until we go back up there,” Donlon said. “There are many ways to lose a basketball game but the way we lost tonight was extremely humbling.”

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