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Men’s basketball: Free throw shooting, defense help WSU even record against UMKC

Andrew Smith, Sports Editor

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The Wright State Raiders used timely defensive and pin-point accuracy from the free throw line to old off the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos 61-49 Saturday night at the Nutter Center.

Forward Cole Darling led all scorers with 15 points. Jerran Young, who gained national attention for his alley-oop dunk against Eastern Illinois Thursday, finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Though both teams finished almost dead even in rebounds and turnovers committed, the Raiders’ defense- which has kept their opponents under 60 points for the third-straight game- held the Kangaroos to 34.6 percent from field.

Cole Darling (22) scores on a jump hook over UMKC’s Fred Chatmon (21) in the second half of WSU’s 61-49 win Saturday night.

“We were able to win the game, as badly as we played offensively. When we turn the ball over, as many times as we did, it didn’t really lead to baskets for them, which is critical” head coach Billy Donlon said. “When we got them in the half court, they had a really hard time scoring.”

Despite the fact that points were hard to come by for both teams, the Raiders lead by 10 at halftime. WSU’s lead ballooned to 43-24 less than four minutes later and the Raiders kept the Kangaroos off the scoreboard for nearly the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second half.

“In earlier games, we really struggled coming out of halftime, but, definitely, the last two games, we’ve done a good job of really locking teams down,” Darling said.

UMKC responded with a 14-2 run to stay within seven after. The trimmed deficit was the result of careless play and errant passes by WSU. During the ensuing timeouts, Donlon said he reinforced the team’s defensive philosophy and tried not to make his players over-think things on the offensive end.

“I didn’t want to get in their heads about offense,” Donlon said. “I told them, ‘hey, we can make better plays.’ When you’re going that badly offensively and turning the ball over, I think, as a coach, if you get in there and yell at them, it’s going to make it worse. That’s my experience. It may not be right, but I was yelling at them about defense. I knew that, as long as we guarded them, we had a chance.”

The Raiders’ 10 second half turnovers gave the Kangaroos numerous opportunities to bring the game within two or fewer possessions. Instead, UMKC shot only 28 percent in the second half and failed to close the gap.

But down the stretch, the Raiders pulled away at the foul line, shooting 82.1 percent for the game.

“In practice, we shoot a lot of free throws. Coach [Bill Donlon] Sr. is really honest about free throw shooting and he loves it. Both teams did a good job of getting to the line and I’m just glad we knocked down our free throws.”

The Raiders now stand at 7-7. Preseason projections had them winning the Horizon League. With 13 days remaining until they begin conference play, Donlon believes his team is close to where he would like it to be, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“I’m happy to where we’ve gotten to now, but I’m not happy with where we are through 14 games,” Donlon said. “But, you can’t cry over spilled milk. You have to clean it up.”

“I do think we’ve gotten sharper. I don’t think we’re all the way there, but I’d be surprised if you polled the other eight coaches in the league and asked them the same question, I’m sure they would all feel like ‘we’re not all-the-way ready,’ and that’s our job by the first game to get all- the-way ready.”

WSU will host Bowling Green on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. before opening Horizon League competition against Oakland on Jan. 2.

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Wright State University
Men’s basketball: Free throw shooting, defense help WSU even record against UMKC