Wright State basketball: Recent surge gives Raiders hope in league



FAIRBORN — When Milwaukee came back from a 22-point second-half deficit to stun Northern Kentucky on the road Saturday night, the Panthers and their entourage weren’t the only ones celebrating.

There was much high-fiving around the Horizon League, too.

NKU was threatening to run away with the regular-season crown, but its 75-74 loss gave all the contenders hope.

That includes Wright State. Even with five home league losses — already equaling their second-most since joining the conference in 1994 — the Raiders have legitimate title aspirations.

They reached .500 for the first time this season at 6-6 by beating Milwaukee and Green Bay in a three-day span, while four teams are tied for first at 9-3: NKU, Milwaukee, Cleveland State and Youngstown State.

The Raiders have eight games left, six on the road.

But when asked about the HL developments, coach Scott Nagy said he’s keeping the blinders on.

“All I know is we go to Youngstown next,” he said of Thursday’s game. “I know we have six of the last eight on the road. We’ve been a good road team — and we’re going to have to be a great road team just to stay in this deal.”

The Raiders have actually been better when they pack up the duffel bags. They’re 6-6 at home and 7-4 away from the Nutter Center.

“We hurt ourselves at home. There’s not anything we can do about that, but we worked hard to get back to .500. I’m proud of the kids for fighting and not giving into discouragement,” Nagy said.

Oakland is fifth in the league at 7-5, while the Raiders are tied for sixth with Robert Morris and Purdue Fort Wayne.

After traveling to YSU and Robert Morris this week, they return home to face IUPUI (0-11) and then Northern Kentucky on Senior Night.

They finish with four straight road games against Cleveland State, PFW, Oakland and Detroit Mercy.

The league tourney starts Feb. 28 with the top five teams getting first-round byes into the quarterfinals.

While Nagy isn’t looking too far ahead, his players believe they’re still alive in the race.

“We just have to do what we’ve been doing these last couple games — playing together, playing hard, playing aggressive, playing free and playing with love (for each other),” star point guard Trey Calvin said.

The Raiders have won either the regular-season or tourney title in each of the last five seasons.

“The opportunity will be there because we’re playing a lot of these teams that are in the mid- to upper-level of the pack,” senior wing Tim Finke said. “It’s right there.”

The Raiders are getting healthy at the right time, too.

Senior C.J. Wilbourn, a 6-7, 235-pound forward, saw his first action of the season in the Green Bay game Jan. 12. He played six minutes in the second meeting with the Phoenix on Saturday and scored four points.

The former league all-freshman team pick transferred from Milwaukee to Wright State last season. He appeared in 33 games with six starts.

Nagy called him “a phenomenal man and a great teammate. He’s been injured almost the whole time he’s been here. He’s struggled with foot injuries. But he’s all in.”

Wilbourn probably will be the fourth player in the frontcourt rotation behind Brandon Noel, A.J. Braun and Blake Sisley. The Raiders won’t always have a need to go that deep, but Nagy appreciates having experience on the bench.

“Whatever we need him to do, he’s about that. And his teammates love him for it,” Nagy said.

“It’s not easy to be a guy in his position and not get the playing time. But he’s handled it very well.”


Wright State at Youngstown State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980

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