INDIANAPOLIS – When a team makes nine three-pointers in the first half, that generally means they are in a great position to win the game. When they also hold that team to just 18 points in the first half, that usually points to a win.
Wright State did all that and rolled over Detroit 69-50 in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship.
Led by 6′ 9″ center Ronnie Thomas’ four three-pointers in four tries, the Raiders led 39-18 at the half. The Titans shot just 38.1 percent (8-21) including 1-6 from 3-point land.
Wright State (20-11) didn’t set out in their game plan to set Thomas up to shoot three-pointers, that is just what the Detroit defense allowed the Raiders to do.
Detroit coach Ray McCallum’s game plan included packing it in around the basket to stop the easy shots, which opened things up for Raiders on the outside where they were 9-14 (52.2 percent).
“We knew they were an excellent three-point shooting team, but we wanted to take away layups. We didn’t guard the three with our capability,” explained McCallum. “We knew the shooters, we had them identified. It was a quick turn around for our guys, we weren’t able to play Detroit basketball today.”
On the flip side Wright State coach Brad Brownell didn’t draw up any plays to get Thomas shots.
He said, “We didn’t try to have him be our game plan, but Ronnie has shot shots, and had some games where he made more than others. It’s not like we told Ronnie not to shoot. Most teams guard him out there a little differently, and if you leave him open, he’s going to make some shots.”
The game started off just fine for Detroit (20-14) when Thomas Kennedy hit a jumper to put them up 2-0. By the 17:26 mark Kennedy hit a 3-pointer to put the Titans up by four at 7-3. That was the biggest lead they would enjoy in the game.
Thomas hit a three-pointer at the 16:32 mark to get the Raiders within one at 7-6 and then Troy Tabler hit another to put Wright State up for good at 9-7.
Wright State got the lead up to 23 points at 36-13 with 3:03 to go in the first half. When the teams headed to the locker room Wright State led 39-18.
In the second half Wright State expanded its lead to 25 three times, the last coming at the 6:06 mark when Scott Grote made a jumper to make the score 63-38. After that Detroit went on a small 13-6 run to close the final point gap to 19 points.
Tabler, with 16 points in the game, felt that his team used the week off to their advantage, which helped them win tonight.
“It helped getting a week with no games, so we can focus our self in practice rather than focus on a game. This week we were able to get better as a team.”
Thomas led all scorers with 18 points, Eli Homan led Detroit with 12 points.
Butler Stops Milwaukee to Advance
For Butler, it came down to getting stops on defense, which finally caused Milwaukee to fall in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship 68-59.
Down 29-28 at the half, Butler came out and took the lead when Matt Howard made a jump shot at the 19:22 mark. Milwaukee’s Anthony Hill made a layup to put the Panthers ahead at 31-30. Another Jumper by Howard at the 18:41 mark put Butler ahead 32-31, and they never trailed again in the game.
When Butler’s Shelvin Mack made a layup with 11:56 left it stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to nine at 44-35.
But Milwaukee (20-14) wasn’t giving up. By the time Ricky Franklin hit a three-pointer with 6:22 left, the Panthers were within a point at 50-49.
As the Butler fans got a little anxious, Butler coach Brad Stevens had faith in his players, so rather than call a timeout he let them play.
A couple of free throws by Howard, a lay up by Ronald Nored, then a free throw to complete the three-point play after a foul by Milwaukee’s Ja’Rob McCallum at the 5:20 mark and Butler had some breathing room with a 55-49 lead.
Over the last five minutes, Butler (27-4) worked its lead up to double digits, then as time ran tout Milwaukee’s Burleigh Porte hit a jumper to give Butler the nine-point win.
“It was a tough game, they are a very physical team. I give those guys a lot of credit, third game in five days,” said Stevens. “I thought they played with outstanding effort and they didn’t get tired.”
Hill led Milwaukee with 15 points.
Matt Howard led all scorers with 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half.
“They were giving me the ball in good spots. I was trying to attack and get the ball up on the rim, it was working today,” explained Howard.
Butler’s Gordon Hayward had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The tough Butler defense had Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter saying that Butler was able to play their style, while forcing his team out of how they wanted to play and that was a big factor in his team’s loss.
“We got to this point by playing a certain style, and it was too bad we didn’t get a chance to finish that style out,” Jeter said.
- Detroit is the first team to post two upsets (by seed) in the tournament since the Titans did it in 1996.
- Former Wright State great Mike Grote and his brother former Michigan State player Steve Grote were in attendance tonight, along with Bob Grote, a former Raider great and father of Wright player Scott Grote. Mike Grote played on the Raiders’ national championship team. Those three are some very knowledgeable fans.
- Not to be outdone, Mike Nienabor, coach at Christian Brothers University, Kirk Nienabor, the all-time assists leader at Bethel University when he graduated and Mike Price, the coach of Cincinnati Oak Hills High School, were also on hand for the game.
- Wright State is in the Horizon League semifinal game for third time in the last four years.
- Wright State’s baseball team yesterday beat the number one ranked team in the country, University of Virginia 2-1.
- Wright State fans outnumbered Detroit fans about 10 to 1. There were almost 1,000 Raider fans in attendance.
- Wright State has reached the 20-win mark for the fourth year in a row under coach Brad Brownell.
- Wright State leads the overall series with Detroit 20-19.
- Milwaukee is making their first appearance in the semifinals since they won the 2006 championship.
- Butler’s 19-game winning streak is the longest in the country.
- Butler won their fourth straight league title this season and is hosting the tournament for the third straight year.
- Butler is 13-0 at home and 42-3 in the last three years.
- Butler leads the all-time series with Milwaukee 30-10.
- Butler is in the Horizon League Championship game for the fifth year in a row, but lost three of the last four finals, including in 2007 against Wright State. In the HL/MCC only Xavier had a longer run of final game appearances.
- With Wright State’s win tonight the Horizon League has five 20-win teams for the first time in conference history. Only five other leagues/conferences have as many 20-game teams this season: Big East (8), Big 12 (7), SEC (6), ACC (5) and Atlantic 10 (5). All of those conferences have more teams than the Horizon League.
Wright State and Butler play Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on ESPN.