The Wayne State University men's basketball team were swept in their series against Northwood University at Riepma Arena. WSU lost the first matchup 74-67 on Jan. 22 and then lost 67-66 on a buzzer-beater on Jan. 23
NU opened both halves of Saturday’s game by extending their lead and making WSU fight from behind for a good portion of the game. In spite of having to go on a few runs of their own, WSU stayed in the game, only to be put away by a buzzer beater on NU’s part.
After trailing 63-58 with three minutes left, WSU went on a 8-0 run in the closing minutes. With 23 seconds remaining on the clock, and two successful free throw attempts from senior guard Brailen Neely, it almost looked like WSU had pulled off the comeback.
Unfortunately, junior guard Darian Owens-White fouled on a jump shot, much to the dismay of Head Coach David Greer. NU proceeded to make one free throw, only to capitalize off their own intentional miss when Owens-White and sophomore forward Avery Lewis collided in the paint and touched the ball.
Greer said he felt the officials down the stretch made some poor decisions.
“It should have never got there. First of all, the game should have been over because when you miss a free throw, the clock should start. Second of all, the guy shooting the free throw went over the free throw line, and that should have been a violation. … It’s unacceptable because the referee went to the monitor and saw the same tape that I saw,” Greer said.
The officials put 0.8 seconds back on the clock, which was more than enough time for NU to seize the moment. In perhaps the most devastating finish this season for WSU men’s basketball, NU won off a buzzer beater fading out of bounds.
It was visible on the faces of each WSU player just how devastating this loss was. A lot of credit was to be given to NU for a tough game, but, in an attempt to not put blame on the referees, Greer said Owens-White should have hung onto the ball.
“I don’t wanna say that we were hosed out. The ball got knocked loose, but the ball was in Darian’s hands. The clock should have started, but if Darian did what he was supposed to do, maybe this isn’t not even an issue,” Greer said.
This weekend, WSU continued to run short rotations as Neely played a total of 80 minutes over the weekend. However, he made his time count, scoring 41 points off 15-29 shooting and 4 assists combined over the weekend.
Toward the end of both games, Neely began to show signs of fatigue, but it was his free throws down the stretch that put WSU in a position to still have a chance to win.
Despite the losses, Greer said he was happy with Neely’s performances.
“Brailen playing 40 minutes a game is nothing new, and we needed him to play because Darian wasn’t playing very good. Brailen had the ability to break their defense down, he was a little gassed at the end but he made some big plays,” Greer said.
In addition, freshman guard Ray Williams Jr. played an efficient series over the weekend. As far as scoring goes, Williams Jr. notched 11 points off 4-8 shooting on Friday and seven points off 1-3 shooting on Saturday.
Greer said he doesn’t judge Williams Jr.’s game based on scoring, rather, he prefers to look at it from a defensive perspective.
“I thought Ray played exceptionally well. You can’t gauge his game on scoring. He’ll get you double figures every now and again but I thought he played excellent defense on some of their best guys,” Greer said.
Another running theme for WSU this season has been a lack of a convincing game from beyond the arc. Both games this weekend were no different, as WSU once again struggled to shoot the ball from the three-point range, only making 4-17 shots from three.
WSU is not known for being an effective team from three-point range. If they are to find some success from long range, they need Owens-White, Neely and sophomore forward Jackie Harris to play more consistently, Greer said.
“A lot of that goes into if Darian and Jackie Harris are making three pointers. Brailen is a streaky shooter, Jackie just didn’t get any off, and Darian just didn’t hit any. If those guys can’t hit any threes then we’re just not going to be a three point team.” Greer said.
WSU doesn’t have a lot of time to reflect on this loss, as they have another game on Tuesday. Still, Greer said he was let down by the outcome of this weekend.
“We lost two tough games on the road, we’re not in shape. So the quick turnaround doesn’t help us. I’m disappointed because I thought our guys earned a split today, but we just didn’t get it,” Greer said.
WSU men’s basketball will return to the Matthaei Center for the first half of their series against Ashland University on Jan. 26. They will then travel to the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse Arena for their series at GVSU on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31.
Irving Mejia-Hilario is sports editor for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo of Darian Owens-White, from last season, provided by WSU Athletics.