VALPARAISO | In a battle of the Horizon League's Coach of the Year against the Player of the Year, Wright State and coach Billy Donlon won out.
The No. 3 seed Raiders stunned No. 2 Detroit and conference POY Ray McCallum Jr. 56-54 Saturday at the Athletics-Recreation Center when junior guard Miles Dixon hit a 12-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer.
Dixon appeared to be behind the backboard when he released the shot over the outstretched arms of Detroit's 6-foot-8 Evan Bruinsma. The plan was for Dixon to look for 6-6 freshman JT Yoho breaking down the lane.
"I didn't see him in the post, so I went baseline and shot a miracle," Dixon said. "I believed I was going to get the shot off because I saw how much time was left.
"I was just on the side."
But Donlon wanted to enhance the truth.
"He was behind it and in the stands. Let's just start the legend right now," Donlon said.
Dixon finished with a team-high 14 points for Wright State (21-11), a team selected to finish last in the Horizon's preseason poll which now advances to Tuesday's title game. Jerran Young added 12 points for the Raiders, who shot 22-of-42 (52.4 percent) and dictated the tempo throughout the game.
Detroit was held to 19-of-45 shooting (45) and committed 11 turnovers.
"When you go through their numbers, (Detroit) hadn't won a game when they scored less than 70," Donlon said. "We were going to try to dictate tempo and eliminate their transition baskets.
"To play that kind of individual defense and team defense is really incredible."
There were 14 ties and nine lead changes. Neither team led by more than five points.
A key for the Raiders was holding McCallum Jr. to just five points on 1-for-7 shooting. His one field goal was a tip-in of his own miss with 2:22 remaining that tied the game at 51-51.
Also, first-team All-Horizon forward Nick Minnerath scored just eight points, with six coming in the first half.
The Titans (20-12) were able to stay in contention thanks to guard Jason Calliste, who scored 17 including 3-of-4 3-pointers, and forward Evan Bruinsma who scored 15.
Head coach Ray McCallum didn't hesitate when asked about the key to the loss.
"We have two all-conference players who couldn't get it going," McCallum said. "They have been consistent all year and two of the hottest players in the country, and they only give us 13 points.
"A lot comes down to them."
The Raiders were able to dictate the final two minutes after 5-9 guard Reggie Arceneaux converted a three-point play with 2:06 remaining for a 54-51 lead.
Detroit missed its opportunity to take the lead in the final seconds when the Titans worked down the shot clock and had to settle for a Doug Anderson 3-point attempt with about 17 seconds remaining. The Raiders rebounded and called a timeout before the game-winning conclusion, sending the defending tournament champions back to Detroit early.
"The young man made a great play," McCallum said. "It sure was a big shot for them."