Raiders shoot 33 percent from the field against UIC and drop second consecutive game for the first time this season.
FAIRBORN — The Nutter Center was packed full of a season-high 8,065 fans last night for Wright State’s annual “Blackout Night” in a game against Illinois-Chicago. Over 5,000 black tee-shirts were given out to fans at the gates, which many wore during the game.
The only thing blacked out in the game was Wright State’s offense.
The Raiders shot 18-of-54 (33.3 percent) from the field in the game in a 55-49 loss to UIC. The loss was the second consecutive for the Raiders (14-7, 5-3 Horizon League), marking the first time Wright State has dropped back-to-back games this season.
“We’ve got to get (our players’) confidence back,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said after the game. “We can’t allow the fact that we lost this game to put us down in the dumps and be melancholy… They’ve got to have great confidence when they play.”
The game was the fourth in eight days for the Raiders, and the third loss in that time frame. It was the first home game since Jan. 9 for Wright State, who didn’t have a conference loss at that point.
Wright State junior forward Cole Darling said after the game that the Raiders are focused on breaking the losing streak when they resume Horizon League play on Wednesday against Detroit.
“This one’s rough,” Darling said. “You can’t lose the home games and expect to win the league. We’ve just got to bounce back and get back to our defensive ways.”
Donlon said Wright State had not practiced during the four-game stretch and said it played a factor in the loss.
“When you play four games in eight days, you don’t practice,” Donlon said. “Between games, you’re resting. So hopefully we can get a practice in and get better that way.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got a game on you’ve schedule, you’ve got to play it.”
Darling said Wright State was not worn out from its recent stretch of games.
“I don’t think we had any hangover at all,” Darling said. “We got outsmarted. Down the stretch, we just didn’t make right plays. They played a great game. It was tough scoring on both sides. They just made the plays when they needed to make them and we didn’t.”
Wright State was picked to finish last in the Horizon League in a preseason media poll. The Raiders accumulated a 9-4 nonconference record, including a ten-point loss at Cincinnati on Dec. 22 in which Wright State led the Bearcats by six points at halftime.
“This is not the end of the world,” Donlon said. “I told everybody else when we were 4-0, we didn’t win anything. We dropped a home game (tonight), but we’ve got to bounce back and play better here these next two and start to defend our home court… We’ve got to play better and play smarter. It’s not enough in college basketball to just play hard.”
Wright State took an 8-4 led on a three-pointer from JT Yoho with 14:33 left in the first half, but UIC finished the half on a 22-6 run and led by 12 points at halftime.
Yoho hit a three-pointer with 39 seconds left in the game to pull Wright State within three points at 49-46, but that was as close as Wright State came in the second half.
Yoho’s two three-pointers were the only Wright State made in the game. The Raiders shot 2-of-19 in three-point shots.
Darling, who led the Raiders with 11 points, said Wright State was unable to establish an offensive rhythm in the game.
“Things were feeling good,” Darling said. “The shots didn’t fall.”
Donlon didn’t have an explanation for Wright State’s cold shooting.
“I thought guys were shot ready,” Donlon said. “We kept telling them every timeout that they were going to start making them and to keep shooting them. You can’t tell them, ‘Hey, that’s a bad shot,’ when they’re good shots. That’s the dumbest thing you can do… We were just a little slow offensively all night.”
Donlon said he was pleased with the large crowd and thanked the fans in attendance. Wright State’s average attendance for the season was 3,516 fans per game before last night’s crowd.
“I wish it was a better performance,” Donlon said. “I know this — our guys are going to be a lot better on Wednesday, and if we can get 8,000 again on Wednesday, I think we’re going to play a lot better.”