Men’s Basketball: Pacher lifts Raiders to incredible comeback at Oakland
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ROCHESTER, Mich. – Wright State coach Billy Donlon gave senior forward AJ Pacher a big handshake and told him he did a job “well done” outside of the Raiders’ locker room Sunday afternoon.
Pacher scored with 1.6 seconds remaining for the game-winning basket to give Wright State a 72-71 win at Oakland after the Golden Grizzlies blew a 10-point lead with 2:13 remaining.
“That is the first game-winner I have ever hit in college,” Pacher said. “We knew we had to keep fighting the whole time. That is an incredible stat that we were down 10 with two to go. It just speaks volume to this team.”
Wright State coach Billy Donlon said the final play went as he had drawn up.
“We designed a play to throw it into him,” Donlon said. “JT (Yoho) made a great pass, AJ went right into a power move to the rim. No fading away.”
Pacher scored 15 and added a career-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double as a Raider.
“Coach (Chris) Moore has been on me about (rebounds) because I have nine a lot,” Pacher said. “I was just trying to do what it took to win.”
Wright State forward Cole Darling had eight points in the first four minutes of the game leading him to a season-high 21 points.
Wright State had been snake bitten in recent road contests. WSU was 1-7 in road contests decided by five or fewer going into Sunday’s match.
“To win a game like this, these guys needed that, they deserve that,” Donlon said.
Pacher’s shot was aided by an 8-0 run the Raiders started with two minutes remaining where Reggie Arceneaux and Cole Darling hit 3-pointers to cut Oakland’s lead to two.
Duke Mondy hit a pair of free throws to give Oakland a four-point edge with 28 seconds left.
WSU (15-13, 7-6) responded with a 3 from Yoho to cut the Golden Grizzlies’ (10-18, 5-8) lead to one. On the ensuing possession, Travis Bader carried the basketball giving the Raiders a chance to take the lead.
Donlon said he did not want Bader getting free throws, as he is fourth in the nation in free-throw percentage.
Taking advantage of the turnover, Darling scored a pair of free throws to give WSU its first lead since early in the first half.
With 21 seconds left on the clock, Mondy went to work again drawing Pacher’s fourth foul. Mondy hit both free throws and gave the Grizzles the 71-70 lead.
His free throws with 13 seconds left setting up the dramatic finish on the other end of the court.
“It wasn’t just my shot, Yoho hit some great 3s, Cole hit some great 3s,” Pacher said. “We had so many big time stops and shots leading up to that. I just happened to be the one who put it in.”
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said following the game that it was not a contest Wright State deserved to win. He was frustrated after the game on allowing WSU to make three 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the contest.
“We were up 10, they needed five possessions to catch us if they only made 2s,” Kampe said. “What happens? We come down three straight times and do not switch. They run a guy underneath and screen him and we don’t switch. You would think after the first one we would, but we didn’t.”
Wright State overcame a six-point halftime deficit. The Raiders came into Sunday’s contest 0-9 when trailing at the half.
Golden Grizzlies had a lead by as many as 13 in the second half before the Raiders’ rally.
Wright State had issues making free throws and turning the ball over. The Raiders started the second half 3-for-10 on free throws and had committed 19 turnovers for the game.
“It is why I am a defensive-minded guy,” Donlon said. “Our offensive game didn’t travel. We were turning the ball over and a lot of them were unforced. We did an unbelievable job on an offensive team. We held them to under 40 percent shooting.”
The win was critical in the standings for Wright State. The Raiders jump to fourth place with the win and remain one and a half games behind Valparaiso for third place which would give WSU a first-round bye in the Horizon League postseason.
Dunk shots: Darling left the game with six minutes left. He tweaked the same ankle he sprained versus Findlay on Nov. 1. He returned for the Raiders’ last-minute comeback… Bader, the all-time leading 3-point shooter in Division I, was held 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. It was just the third time all year he failed to make a 3.