You can sometimes gauge the quality of a victory by the intensity of the reaction on Twitter, and it was buzzing after Wright State’s 62-61 victory at Loyola on Friday.
“That was an incredible win!!” WSU junior forward AJ Pacher wrote.
“I feel compelled to point this out every time Wright State plays,” wrote Bill Potter, the Horizon League’s director of communications. “They have zero seniors. Makes Billy Donlon’s work that much more impressive.”
If three straight wins at the Nutter Center to open Horizon League play didn’t prove it, the Raiders’ road win showed there’s something special going on with this team. The Raiders sat alone in first place going into Saturday’s games at 4-0, and they’re two wins away from matching the 1989-90 team’s 15-4 start for the program’s best start in the past 25 years.
Also, lost in the excitement of Friday’s victory was this fact: Wright State has already equaled its win total from last season when it finished 13-19.
“We’ve gotten off to a really good start,” Donlon said Friday. “I still temper that because we had three home games. We came on the road, and we got one. There’s 12 more league games. Everyone is really good. I saw (Valparaiso coach) Bryce Drew’s quote. Sometimes you’re 1-4, and sometimes you’re 4-1, and the difference is five possessions in five games. That’s a great quote, and it’s exactly true.”
The Raiders have proven they can win every type of game. They’ve protected leads well. They’re 11-0 when leading with 10 minutes left. They’ve also won two of their last three games by rallying from behind in the final minutes.
Wright State trailed Milwaukee on Jan. 5 almost the entire second half but pulled ahead on a Cole Darling 3-pointer with less than three minutes left and won 53-51 when Milwaukee missed a shot at the buzzer.
On Friday, Reggie Arceneaux’s 3-pointer in the final two minutes, the last basket of his brilliant 29-point performance, put the Raiders on top for the first time in the second half. Neither team scored again, though Valparaiso had a great look in the final seconds.
“We definitely believe as a team,” Darling said. “We trust each other. We just knew we were going to cover up for each other’s mistakes, and we just had to defend the ball. We did that in the end.”
Now they’ve earned a break. The Raiders don’t play again until Saturday at Valparaiso. That’s the first of three road games in five days.
It would be a stretch to think the Raiders can win at Valparaiso, Detroit and Youngstown State, but they just won four Horizon League games in nine days, so don’t put it past them.
“Four games in nine days, it’s tough,” Darling said, “but we almost love that feeling. Short breaks and you get right back at it. That’s the best thing about basketball. Win or lose, you move on and play another game. You have another chance for a great game.”
Wright State at Valparaiso, 8 p.m., 100.3