UW-Green Bay clinches first NCAA Tourney trip in 20 years
DETROIT — Jordan Fouse scored 16 points, and Green Bay wrapped up a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996 by beating Wright State 78-69 on Tuesday night in the Horizon League title game.
Charles Cooper added 15 points for the Phoenix, who jumped out to a double-digit lead and never let the Raiders control the pace. Green Bay (23-12) and Wright State (22-13) were in the championship game after beating top-seeded Valparaiso and second-seeded Oakland the previous night.
Michael Karena scored 14 points for Wright State. The Raiders were able to control the tempo against high-scoring Oakland in the semifinals, winning that game 59-55, but they were playing catch-up throughout against Green Bay.
Jamar Hurdle’s basket capped a 13-0 run that gave the Phoenix an early 17-6 lead, and Green Bay led by as many as 15 points in the first half. Wright State missed 14 of 15 shots during one stretch, and although the Raiders recovered a bit from their slow start, they were down 42-30 at halftime.
Wright State could never really cut into its deficit in the second half. Cooper’s one-handed dunk on a fast break made it 60-41 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Wright State was playing in the title game for the third time in four years, but hasn’t made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
Green Bay coach Linc Darner will take the Phoenix to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the helm. He led Florida Southern to the Division II national championship last year.
Green Bay beat Valpo 99-92 in overtime Monday, and the Phoenix came into Tuesday averaging 84 points a game. They were held below that figure, but not by much.
Both teams were playing their fourth game in four days, after Valpo and Oakland were given byes to the semifinals. Wright State shot 37.5 percent from the field Tuesday, a far cry from the patient execution that enabled the Raiders to beat Oakland.
Wright State’s JT Yoho, who played a big role against Oakland, scored eight points in the final on 2-of-17 shooting.
Green Bay: The Phoenix improved to 12-0 when holding opponents under 70 points.
Wright State: The Raiders led only once, at 6-4.
Green Bay will hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Wright State coach Billy Donlan said he thinks his team is an NIT-caliber team, but he is not really expecting to receive a bid to that tournament.