FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy tried everything against Cleveland State to break his team out of its midseason malaise.
He experimented with a variety of combinations.
He put the Raiders in a zone defense for several possessions for the first time this season.
He even went to a mass substitution in hopes of getting results, pulling four of his five starters about four minutes into the game after falling behind, 13-2.
“That’s about all we can do,” he said of yanking his usual stalwarts. “Early in the game, we had some guys miss assignments and miss what we were trying to get done. If that’s going to happen, we’re going to bring people in.”
Nothing he did, though, could keep the Raiders from dropping their fifth Horizon League home game in six starts. Cleveland State built a 16-point halftime lead, stretched it to 22 early in the second half and withstood a late push for an 85-77 victory Saturday.
“The first half again — same story,” Nagy said of yet another slow start by his team. “You can ask me why, but I don’t have an answer.”
His players were equally flummoxed.
“We were in a really good mood leading into the game. We could feel it. We had energy,” senior Tim Finke said.
“We talked about it in pre-game. When they make the first punch, we’ve got to respond.”
The Raiders, though, had 11 turnovers in the first 11:32 and finished with 17 — their fourth straight game with at least 17.
Redshirt freshman forward Brandon Noel had another strong game with 16 points and six rebounds, but he also had a team-high six turnovers.
“Playing in the post is tough. There are a lot of hands around there for deflections,” he said. “But for me personally, I’ve got to stop playing so lax. I feel I’m taking it too easy out there, and that’s hurting me in turnovers.”
Trey Calvin, who had a career-high nine turnovers in his last outing, had just three against the Vikings and led a second-half rally that put a charge into the crowd of 4,054.
He scored 15 of his game-high 24 points after halftime, and the Raiders ripped off 16 consecutive points in one stretch, cutting a 64-43 deficit with 13 minutes left to 64-59 with 9:14 to go.
A Finke 3 made it 68-64 with 6:30 left.
“They missed a few shots and got a little tight and took some shots they don’t normally take — and missed those, too,” Nagy said.
The Vikings had a chance to make it a 10-point game when Deante Johnson was free under the basket. But he missed a wide-open dunk at 3:46, and the Raiders made one more surge to climb within four again.
But Wayne grad Deshon Parker, who had 15 points in his homecoming, converted a 1-and-1 with 43 seconds left. And the Raiders’ Keaton Norris missed a contested shot inside to end the drama.
The Vikings shot 70.4% in the first half and 58.5% for the night.
The Raiders squandered a solid showing from the field (25 of 52 for 48.1%) and the foul line (21 of 23 for 91.3%).
They fell to 11-10 overall and 4-6 in the league, while CSU improved to 12-9, 7-3.
“There’s still a long way to go. We’re not in there panicking,” Nagy said with a nod to the locker room.
“I think their heads are in the right place. But there’s obviously things we have to get fixed.”
Milwaukee at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980
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