Wright St. 94, Ill.-Chicago 88
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ Bill Edwards carried Wright State to its first NCAA tournament berth Tuesday night, scoring 38 points in a 94-88 victory over Illinois-Chicago for the Mid-Continent Conference tournament championship.
Mike Nahar added 25 as Wright State (20-9) controlled the game with its height advantage. Illinois-Chicago (17-15) didn’t have anyone tall enough or quick enough to guard either.
Wright State’s chances in the NCAA tournament ride on Edwards, the conference’s leading scorer with a 25-point average and its leading rebounder. Mid-Continent teams are 4-9 in the NCAA tournament, losing their last three first-round games.
Edwards scored 20 in the first half, when Wright State built a 9-point lead, and steadied the Raiders down the stretch by hitting six free throws in the last two minutes.
Kenny Williams scored 30 and hit a four-point play that got Illinois- Chicago to 91-88 with 21 seconds left. Andy Holderman hit a free throw, stole the ball from Williams and made another free throw to clinch it.
Fans stormed the court when the game ended, and Wright State backup guard Chris McGuire was injured in the pileup. Paramedics attended to him on the floor for several minutes, put a brace on his neck and carried him off on a protective board.
Wright State, in its sixth season at Division I, is known for its success in Division II - the Raiders won the national title 10 years ago.
Edwards, a 6-foot-8 forward, carried the Raiders to all three tournament wins on their home court. He scored Wright State’s first three baskets Tuesday, putting the Raiders ahead to stay.
The Raiders lobbed the ball inside to Edwards and Nahar, a 7-foot center, for easy baskets. They combined for 26 of Wright State’s first 30 points, helping the Raiders push their lead to 9. Illinois-Chicago has just one starter as tall as 6-foot-8.
Wright State’s 49-44 halftime lead reflected the advantage - the Raiders shot 68 percent and got 37 points from their starting front line.
The Flames cut the lead to 3 points early in the second half before foul trouble made them tentative. Forward Charles Brakes fouled out midway through the second half, and forward Sherell Ford - the Flames’ best player in the tournament - got his fourth foul seven minutes into the half.
Flames guard Robert Johnson and backup forward Mario Bailey also fouled out in the closing minutes.
A dunk by Nahar made it 66-55 with 12 minutes left, the Raiders’ biggest lead to that point. Illinois-Chicago didn’t get it closer than the 3-point margin in the closing minute.