Wright State coach Scott Nagy knew what he wanted to say in the post-game locker room after the momentous win at Northern Kentucky last week.
He just didn’t know if he’d be able to get it out.
A video posted by the school showed his voice was quivering with emotion as he congratulated his jubilant players after the regular-season finale — even though he wasn’t entirely sure of all they managed to accomplish.
The 64-62 win clinched their first outright Horizon League title in 29 years of conference play.
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Nagy, though, only knew the victory was big. Very big.
“I can hardly talk, I’m so proud of you guys,” he said as the commotion died down. “We talked about losing some of our edge (earlier), but I’m just super proud. It’s the first time in I don’t know how long that Wright State …”
Before he could even finish, his players interjected in unison, “Ever!”
Asked later if he really didn’t know they just claimed their first outright crown, Nagy said: “I don’t pay a ton of attention to that stuff. I don’t read about it, and I’m not on Twitter and all those things. I heard someone say something about it, which is why I said it maybe was. But the players knew.
“It’s been a record-breaking year for Wright State. It’s been a good season for sure.”
The Raiders (25-6) hit new highs in their 33-year Division-I history for wins in the regular season, league (15) and on the road (9), and a good season can become even better in the league tourney in Indianapolis. They play in the semifinals against UIC (17-16) at 7 p.m. Monday on ESPNU, while second-seeded Northern Kentucky (21-9) faces Green Bay (17-15) at 9:30 on ESPN2.
The championship will be 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN or ESPN2.
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The Raiders have already clinched at least an NIT berth as the top seed. And while they played in it for the first time last year, which was a significant step for the program, their sole focus is on the two wins they need for their fourth NCAA tourney bid.
“The NIT is a great tournament, but that’s not where you want to be,” Nagy said.
The Raiders may have stormed through the regular season in unprecedented fashion, but that doesn’t mean they’re where Nagy wants them to be.
While they’re sixth nationally in scoring with an 81.4 average, he believes they can reach an even higher clip by picking up the pace.
“At Northern Kentucky, it felt like a playoff game where every possession was a grind, which is typical once you get in the NCAA. Teams slow down. We need to play faster,” he said.
“But I was really pleased we were able to get our edge back in defense and rebounding, which was most important to me. The big challenge is remaining desperate. Any team we play in these next two games will be desperate. If we’re not, we’ll get beat.”
The Raiders split two games with the Flames this season. Their 75-58 victory at home Feb. 14 ended a three-game losing streak in the series.
The semifinals and finals will be played at 6,800-seat Indiana Farmers Coliseum for at least the next three seasons after a four-year run at the cavernous Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
The event has been held at numerous sites since its start in 1980, including six times at the Nutter Center. And Nagy believes the change will be good — even though it may someday give IUPUI home-court advantage.
“In terms of the size of it and being centrally located, it’s better for our league,” he said. “For those two games, maybe you have a chance to draw more people.
“With it being smaller and people being closer to the floor, I think it’ll be a better basketball experience.”
Horizon League semifinals
Wright State (25-6) vs. UIC, 7 p.m., ESPNU, 106.5
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