27-6, 13-3 Conf

Wright State stuns No. 17 Butler, wins Horizon tourney

FAIRBORN, Ohio -- DaShaun Wood was shocked when new Wright State coach Brad Brownell stood before his team for the first time and said the Raiders were going to the NCAA Tournament.

Eleven months later, Wood helped make that wild prediction come true.

Wood scored 27 points and Will Graham hit four free throws in the last 12 seconds to lead the Raiders past No. 19 Butler 60-55 Tuesday night for the Horizon League postseason title and its second trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"Coach came in from day one and said we could make it," Wood said while receiving high-fives and hugs on the crowded floor after the game. "All I know is we did make it. And nobody else thought it could be done."

Butler still looks like a solid bet to receive an at-large bid to its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs have lost six of their last seven games at Wright State's Nutter Center -- ending a five-game skid with Saturday night's 67-66 overtime win over Loyola of Chicago.

"This was not neutral," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "Our guys maintained their poise for most of the time, but you have to do it all the time to win."

Wood helped turn the tide after Butler (27-6) had scrambled back from an eight-point deficit to take the lead in the final minutes.

With the score tied at 52-52 and 1:25 left, Butler's A.J. Graves drove to the basket but Wood blocked the shot from behind. Then at the other end, Wood curled off a pick and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:06 left for a 55-52 lead for Wright State (23-9).

"It's all so hard to believe," Wood said. "We fought for 40 minutes. We knew we would have to do that to win."

Brandon Crone, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points, scored inside off the inbounds pass to cut the lead to a point as hundreds of Wright State students crammed around the floor in expectation of a celebration.

The teams each hit a foul shot, before Graham was fouled with 11.6 seconds left. A 66-percent free-throw shooter, he made them both for a 58-55 lead.

"DaShaun came up to me before the first set and said, 'Hey, you've got two shots. You only have to make one.' He was trying to loosen me up. That took some of the weight off my shoulders," Graham said.

Graves, who had 12 points, then rushed the ball up the court but missed a 3-pointer while trying to draw a foul with 4.5 seconds left.

"I was just trying to push the ball up and see what the best shot was that we could get," he said. "I knew we needed a 3 and I knew we didn't have any timeouts left."

Graham again was fouled with 1.3 seconds left and poured in two more to clinch the win, touching off a wild rush to the floor by the students.

The Raiders got off to an abysmal start against the team they shared the regular-season title with but ended up winning for the 11th time in their last 12 games.

Two fans dressed like the Wright Brothers -- Fairborn is a suburb of Dayton, where the Wrights had their bicycle shop -- held up a sign that said, "Win One for Orville and Wilbur!"

Even though they were regular-season co-champs, Wright State won the top seed -- and the right to host the tournament -- by virtue of a tiebreaker. The teams split two earlier meetings.

"Our kids believed all along that we could win this game and that we were going to play well," said Brownell, who took North Carolina-Wilmington to the NCAAs last year for the second time in his four years as a head coach. "We just didn't know what it was going to come down to. In every huddle we told them to relax, stay calm, play the next play."

Burleson scored 15 points and Wilson had 10 for Wright State, which has won a national championship in basketball -- the 1983 Division II crown.

The Raiders' only previous trip to the NCAA tournament in their 20 years in Division I came in 1993, when they were pounded 97-54 by Indiana in the first round after capturing the Mid-Continent Conference tournament title.

The next NCAA challenge is an afterthought.

"We're not worried about the NCAAs for at least another 48 hours," Brownell said. "We're going to enjoy this with our fans."