Tuesday's basketball: Northern Kentucky wins Horizon tournament, snags spot in NCAAs

Detroit News staff and wire services
Northern Kentucky players celebrate their 77-66 win against Wright State Tuesday in the Horizon League men's championship at Little Caesars Arena.

Detroit — Dantez Walton had 15 points and 14 rebounds for his first double-double, leading second-seeded Northern Kentucky to a 77-66 win Tuesday over top-seeded Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament final and into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

The Norse (26-8) had control of the entire game at Little Caesars Arena, with four starters and a reserve scoring in double figures. Jalen Tate scored 17, Zaynah Robinson had 15 points off the bench, Horizon League player of the year and tournament MVP Drew McDonald had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists — one night after crushing Oakland’s tournament hopes with a last-second 3-pointer — and Tyler Sharpe added 11 points.

The Raiders (21-13) struggled to score, making it difficult to come back in a game they trailed for nearly 39 minutes.

All-Horizon League player Loudon Love was 2-of-13 and scored nine points, reserve Bill Wampler had 16 points and Mark Hughes and Cole Gentry each scored 15 points for Wright State, which shot 37.5 percent.

The Raiders scored first and didn’t lead again in a matchup of teams that shared the regular-season title after each team won by four points on its home court.

Early on, it didn’t look like the series-breaker was going to be closely contested.

The Norse led by 18 points with 5:02 left in the first half, and Gentry made a 3-pointer from about 30 feet to cut the Raiders’ deficit to 44-34 at halftime. Northern Kentucky went on an 11-3 run midway through the second half to lead by 19 points and coasted to victory.

This was the final year of the Horizon League’s four-year run in Detroit. The tournaments move to Indianapolis next year.

Horizon League women

Wright State 55, Green Bay 52: At LCA in Detroit, Emily Vogelpohl scored eight of her 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Wright State beat Green Bay in the Horizon League championship game.

The Raiders (27-6), who have eight won games in a row, advance to their second NCAA Tournament and snap Green Bay’s streaks of four consecutive tournament titles and 13 straight victories in the Horizon League tournament.

Michal Miller made a layup, Symone Simmons hit a 3-pointer and Miller added a jumper before Vogelpohl’s 3 as the shot clock expired capped a 10-0 run and made it 47-38 with 6:52 remaining. The Phoenix (22-9) responded with an 11-2 run to tie it a 49-all about five minutes later, but Vogelpohl hit a jumper and then made two free throws to give Wright State a four-point lead with 22 seconds left. After Laken James made a 3-pointer to trim Green Bay’s deficit to 53-52 with 18 seconds left, Miller and Vogelpohl each were 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to cap the scoring.

“That’s what’s different about this group; they were always in attack mode,” Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather said. “When Green Bay made plays, made shots, we had confidence that we could turn around and make them, too. Whereas, I would argue that in the past we’d go, ‘Oh my goodness, what are we gonna do?’ That’s just where this team is different.”

Miller added 13 points, Simmons had eight points and 14 rebounds and Tyler Frierson added six points with 13 boards for Wright State.

Mackenzie Wolf led Green Bay with 10 points while James added eight points, five rebounds and eight assists. Wright State outrebounded the Phoenix, 46-28, including 14-3 on the offensive glass which led to a 13-3 advantage in second-chance points.

Top 25

Saint Mary's 60, No. 1 Gonzaga 47: Saint Mary’s ended the nation’s longest winning streak and Gonzaga’s six-year reign as West Coast Conference Tournament champions.

Saint Mary’s (22-11) all but shut down the nation’s highest-scoring team by slowing the game and forcing Gonzaga to grind out possessions instead of playing fast and free.

The Gaels held Gonzaga’s leading scorer Rui Hachimura in check and limited the Zags (30-3) to 2-of-17 shooting from 3-point range to end the nation’s longest winning streak at 21 games.

Gonzaga’s 18-game WCC tournament winning streak, dating to the 2012 title game, also came to an end, and so too could its bid for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Instead of waiting for Selection Sunday, Saint Mary’s left no doubt by earning its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2017 with its first WCC title in nine years.

Jordan Ford had 17 points and Tanner Krebs scored 13 for the Gaels.

Brandon Clarke led Gonzaga with 16 points and Hachimura was held to nine, nearly 11 under his average.

MAC awards

Central Michigan senior Reyna Frost, who is averaging 13.5 rebounds and 21.7 points, was named Mid-American Conference player of the year. She received 35 of 44 first-place votes.

Frost has had a dominating season, earning MAC West player of the week 11 times. She also made the all-defensive team, and was joined on the first team by senior teammate Presley Hudson.

Western Michigan’s Deja Wimby made all-defense, too.

Also, Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara was named coach of the year for the second consecutive year as the Chippewas (24-6) start MAC tournament play today in Cleveland.