Wright State has company atop the Horizon League standings after an uprising from struggling Cleveland State.
The last-place Vikings tied a school record with 14 3-pointers, including Kenny Carpenter’s buzzer-beating 60-footer at the end of the first half, to stun the Raiders 77-74 Thursday night at the Wolstein Center.
Northern Kentucky beat Youngstown State 95-85 to move into a first-place tie with WSU (17-7, 9-2) with seven conference games remaining.
The Raiders rallied from a 15-point deficit with 12 and a half minutes to go to surge ahead by four, but CSU (6-18, 3-8 HHL) got some key stops late to win for just the second time in nine games.
“We didn’t deserve to win the game,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said. “Our kids fought and got back in it, but the way we showed up to play, it’s flat-out my job to get our kids ready to play. And we weren’t. I’ve got to figure out why we didn’t and make some changes to make sure that we are.”
The Vikings made their first three 3-pointers to surge to an early lead. Bobby Word was 5 of 10 from beyond the arc to score a team-high 18 points, while Carpenter’s miraculous heave at the end of the half was one of four he hit on the way to scoring 14.
CSU hit four of its first six treys to start the second half in building a 15-point edge. The Vikings finished 14 of 32 from beyond the arc to tie the WSU school record for 3-pointers by an opponent, originally set by UIC on March 5, 2016.
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“It’s hard to play a first half like that, and really the first 30 minutes of the game,” Nagy said. “There was just nothing to us, then all of a sudden we decided to try to get back in it. It was the exact same picture as the Milwaukee game, where we were bad early, we gave them a bunch of confidence and then late there are opportunities to make plays, and we wouldn’t make them on the defensive end.”
After taking a 4-point lead on a Parker Ernsthausen three-point play with 6:12 remaining, the Raiders missed their next five shots and CSU rallied to take the lead for good.
“Trying to be a champion is hard,” Nagy said. ” It’s every day, every moment. Because as soon as you let down, just like we did, this is what happens.”
Loudon Love and Grant Benzinger each scored a game-high 20 points for WSU, which was playing without freshman forward Everett Winchester due to an injury.
Love also had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Cole Gentry added 11 points, and Mark Hughes scored 10 while tying his career high with seven assists.
The Raiders return to action Saturday at Youngstown State on Saturday.