Twice in the last month Wright State men’s basketball coach Billy Donlon has used the term “manhandled” while expressing disappointment with his team’s lack of physicality.
One was Thursday night following a 68-64 loss at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The other was two weeks ago at the Nutter Center after a 79-69 loss to tonight’s opponent, Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Forty-seven hours doesn’t allow much time for recovery, especially when facing the first-place Phoenix, but Donlon said he thinks this is an ideal time for a short turnaround.
“We really, really got out-toughed against Milwaukee, and as competitors I think guys want to get right back out there and play,” Donlon said. “I know I would. And as a coach I want to get right back out there and play.”
Green Bay is no doubt just as eager after suffering its first conference loss of the season Wednesday night, a 75-60 setback at Valparaiso.
Despite the loss, the Phoenix (17-4 overall, 7-1 HL) are still in first place with a two-game lead. Wright State, on the other hand, slipped all the way from second place to fifth with Thursday night’s loss as the Raiders (13-11, 5-4) sit 2 ½ games back with seven to play.
“We’ve got one day to get better at the things we need to get better at in order to play a very good Green Bay team on national television,” Donlon said. “We have to figure out how we’re going to adjust from the first time we played them, when they got 26 layup attempts that were either good for baskets or resulted in them going to the free throw line. That’s an absurd number.”
The player who hurt the Raiders the most in that first meeting was 7-foot-1 center Alec Brown, who went 8 of 11 from the floor and scored 24 points.
But Brown injured his shoulder in Sunday’s win at Detroit and did not play Wednesday at Valpo, marking the first game the senior has missed in his four-game career. He is questionable for tonight’s game, while Wright State senior forward Cole Darling (concussion) is doubtful.
“We’re going to prepare like Alec Brown is going to play,” Donlon said. “He played like a first team all-league guy the first time, so we’ll be concerned about Alec Brown. But we have to be worried more about the fundamentals on our side of the ball.”
WSU had 16 turnovers at Milwaukee on the heels of committing 14 in a 68-67 loss at Youngstown State last Saturday. And while that’s a troubling number any time, it will be especially difficult to overcome against a team with a guard as dynamic at Keifer Sykes, who ranks second in the league in scoring at 20.7 points per game.
Despite being the focal point of the Raiders defense in the first game, Sykes still pumped in 18 points to complement Brown’s big night.
As bad as that game looked on paper – giving up 79 points, losing by double digits at home and getting out-rebounded by 12 – the Raiders were right there in it until late, trailing by three with 1:25 to go and by four with 36 seconds remaining.
“Green Bay has proven to be the best team in our league and they played well in that first game and they were the reason we didn’t play well,” Donlon said. “But if we can have just eight or nine better possessions at both ends of the floor (tonight), the score could certainly go in our favor.
“We know we have to get ready for a very good team, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”