This one will hurt Oakland for a long time.
After a miserable first half, the No. 2 seed Golden Grizzlies climbed back and traded the lead with No. 3 Wright State late Monday night.
But in the final seconds, Wright State closed out the game, winning 59-55 and bouncing Oakland from the Horizon League semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.
After Wright State’s JT Yoho hit the go-ahead jumper with 24 seconds to play, to break the 55-all score, OU’s Kay Felder missed a scoop layup with 14 seconds left and Oakland could only foul.
After a miserable three-point first half, Felder was going down swinging.
He took over the second half with 15 of his 18 points but it wasn’t enough.
Wright State will face Green Bay, which upset No. 1 seed Valparaiso, for the Horizon title tonight at 7 at the Joe.
The teams traded the lead in the final minutes.
Oakland had a chance to pad the lead with just over a minute remaining but Xavier Hill-Mais – who gave strong minutes off the bench – threw away a pass.
Wright State answered with a drive for the 55-54 lead with 58.8 to play.
Oakland falls to 21-13 and hopes for a postseason bid elsewhere.
Wright State improved to 22-10.
Oakland’s charge from 10 points down came at the defensive end. Wright State went more than 8 minutes between points in the middle of the half and the Golden Grizzlies finally got the lead when Martez Walker drove baseline for a two-handed jam and the foul.
That gave Oakland the 45-44 edge with 8:40 to play, a lead that got up to three.
But sustaining it was difficult.
For the first 4 minutes of the second half, things actually got worse for Oakland, as an eight-point halftime deficit became 10.
That’s when Felder took over. Scoring eight points in a 10-2 run, he dragged his sagging team back into the game, forcing a Wright State time-out with just under 12 minutes to play and Oakland within two.
Oakland’s worst first half of the season came in the season’s biggest moment as OU fell behind, 33-25, at halftime.
Looking like a team that had a 10-day layoff, hitting just 36% of its shots before halftime, including just 1 of 9 for Felder.
In one stretch, the Golden Grizzlies missed seven straight shots.
It was an emotional night for the Oakland with Max Hooper returning from California earlier in the day where he had visited with his family following his father’s death in Saturday.
The two cross-country flights in 24 hours bothered him less than his teammates as he hit both of his first-half three-point attempts.
It was a maddeningly slow pace for Oakland, which averaged a national-best 87 points per game.
The game started near 10 p.m. after the Golden Grizzlies sat courtside watching No. 4 seed Green Bay upset No. 1 seed Valparaiso.
That should have opened the door for Oakland, with most of the crowd, to be the favorite.
But favorites were losing all across the country on Monday night.
Contact Mark Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mark__snyder.
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