The final four of the College Basketball Invitational features mid-major teams from the Horizon League, the West Coast Conference, the Mid-American Conference and, for the time being at least, the Colonial Athletic Association.
Wright State will host Santa Clara at 9 p.m. Wednesday, and at 7 p.m., Western Michigan will play at George Mason, which just announced Monday it is leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10. Those four teams will play for a spot in the best-of-three championship series, which starts Monday.
Until close to midnight Monday, no one knew who was playing who. The Raiders thought for sure they were going on the road after beating Richmond 57-51 at the Nutter Center, but Santa Clara’s gym was unavailable and it will save money on an extra plane flight by busing to Ohio today.
Wright State coach Billy Donlon looked forward to the challenge of preparing for an unknown opponent on such short notice.
“We love the challenge,” he said. “We’re just probably going to be up in the office until 6 in the morning, which is fine. I’ll order a bunch of pizzas. Whether the guys want pizza or not, it’ll be pizza since I’m buying.”
Wright State is 1-1 all-time against Santa Clara. The Raiders won 76-62 at the Nutter Center on Dec. 15, 2001, and Santa Clara won at home 71-67 on Dec. 30, 2002.
Wednesday’s game will be broadcast live on AXS TV. That’s DirecTV Channel 340, AT&T U-Verse Channel 1106 and Dish Network Channel 362.
Santa Clara (23-11) won 86-83 at Purdue on Monday. The Broncos have four 1,000-point scorers on the roster. This is its second-highest win total in the last 29 seasons.
George Mason (20-14) beat visiting Houston 88-84 in overtime. George Mason tied for fifth in the CAA. It will join the A-10 in July and will pay a $1 million exit fee to leave the early, the CAA announced Monday.
Western Michigan (22-12) beat Wyoming 75-67 in overtime. The Broncos forced overtime with a 3-pointer by David Brown with one second left. Western Michigan won the MAC West Division despite returning just one starter.
The game on March 27 will be the latest Wright State has ever played in March. The Division II national championship game in 1983 was on March 26.
Wright State will also have a chance to reach 24 wins for the first time since it went 28-3 in 1985-86.
Yoho’s play: Freshman J.T. Yoho only scored five points for the Raiders on Monday, but Donlon said he had his best game of the season.
“There’s a great line in sports: Stats don’t always tell the truth, but the video never lies,” Donlon said. “When you watch the video of J.T. Yoho’s performance, it won’t lie. He played his best basketball in a Wright State uniform.”
Young’s play: Jerran Young made two of the best plays of Wright State’s season in the final minutes. He scored on a fall-away jumper after a beautiful spin move in the lane to give the Raiders a 52-48 lead with 1:36 left.
On the ensuing possession, Reggie Arceneaux got a hand on the ball and forced a turnover. Young came up with the loose ball at the top of the Richmond 3-point line and did two spin moves to elude defenders on the way to a fast-break dunk on the other end.
“When I got the steal, I saw it was clear,” Young said. “In my head, I was just like, ‘Go.’”
Young had 11 of his 13 points in the second half. That made up for an ill-advised play in the first half. He tried to bounce the ball high in the air for an alley-oop pass to a teammate, but the ball went out of bounds. Donlon immediately yanked Young from the game.
Halftime speech: Neither team led by more than two points in the first half until Richmond’s Wayne Sparrow hit a layup with one minute left to give Richmond a 26-23 halftime lead. Donlon said he chewed his team out at halftime.
“I just thought after the first six minutes, we went into wait-and-see mode,” Donlon said. “We were going to wait and see how the game toes. Anytime you do that, you’re going to get knocked out, especially by a team that’s as well coached and talented as Richmond.
“I just told them, ‘You’ve got 20 more minutes to play at an incredible place, at an incredible institution, in front of incredible fans. Go try to knock them out. Go start swinging some punches, and be the team you’ve been all year and see what happens.’ They were phenomenal, and they did a great job. That’s player leadership.”
Defensive performance: Wright State held Richmond to 19.6 points below its season average of 70.6 points per game. Richmond shot 38 percent from 3-point range on the season but shot 22 percent in this game (4-of-18).
Darien Brothers and Cedrick Lindsay, Richmond’s top scorers with a combined 26.3 points per game, scored a combined 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. Greg Robbins led Richmond with 12 points. Kendall Anthony, who averages 11.7 points off the bench, scored just two points.
“You’ve got to be careful because they do have the ability to drive the ball,” Donlon said. “We wanted to make who we thought were the right guys shoot the 3. You’re going to give up some shots with the way they spread the floor. We didn’t want Brothers. Lindsay or Anthony to shoot 3s, or we wanted them to shoot really hard 3s.”
Attendance: The crowd of 3,741 on Monday topped the quarterfinal crowd by more than 800. Wright State had the third-largest CBI crowd in the quarterfinals (2,507).
CBI history: Wright State is the second Horizon League team to reach the CBI semifinals. Butler made it last season before losing 68-62 to Pittsburgh in overtime.
Richmond connection: Michael Dahlem, who was the director of basketball operations at Wright State under Ed Schilling, returned to the Nutter Center on Monday as the academic advisor at Richmond.