At halftime, one Wright State player could be heard through the walls of the locker room.
“Twenty more minutes!” he said. “Twenty more minutes!”
The No. 3 seed Raiders had to battle for all 20 of the final minutes of Friday’s Horizon League quarterfinal against No. 6 Youngstown State, but they held off the Penguins 66-59 with big shots and key stops.
“There’s never a dull moment in Horizon League basketball,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said.
Now a team that lost 19 games a year ago has 20 wins for the first time in the Donlon era, and will go for 21 tonight in a 6 p.m. semifinal against No. 2 seed Detroit at Valparaiso.
“This win is huge,” Wright State junior AJ Pacher said. “It means a lot. We stayed together as a team through their runs and kept an even keel through the highs and lows.”
Miles Dixon led the Raiders (20-11) with 14 points. Pacher and Jerran Young scored 13 each, and Reggie Arceneaux had 11. AJ Pacher had nine points, and J.T. Yoho scored eight.
Young led the Raiders with seven rebounds and four assists.
Youngstown shot 30 percent in the first half, and it looked as if the Raiders were going to blow out the Penguins for the second time in seven days. The Raiders beat them 72-45 last Saturday at the Nutter Center.
Wright State led 33-19 at halftime and pushed the advantage to 18 with the first four points of the second half. That’s where its lead peaked, however.
The Penguins got back in the game by shooting 52 percent in the second half. They got as close as three points twice in the final four minutes, thanks in part to the return of injured star Kendrick Perry, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
Wright State had an answer for every big shot the Penguins made, and Arceneaux’s 3-pointer with 3:15 left might have been the most important basket. It gave the Raiders a 59-53 lead.
“I just knew time was running down,” Arceneaux said. “We needed a bucket. They were making a run. Our defense kind of wore down. We needed some type of boost.”
Donlon credited his players for staying in the game when Youngstown seized the momentum. In a time-out with three minutes left, “it was our players leading our team,” he said. “That’s why we’ve had the kind of season we’ve had, and that’s why we’re continuing to play.”
No. 1 seed Valparaiso will play No. 4 seed Green Bay in the second semifinal tonight at 8:30. Green Bay beat Illinois-Chicago 64-63 in the second quarterfinal Friday on a 3-pointer by Sultan Muhammad with 1 second left.
Valparaiso beat Green Bay twice in the regular season, 73-61 and 75-56.
If Wright State beats Detroit, it would play Valparaiso or Green Bay on Tuesday. The game will be at Valparaiso if Valparaiso wins or at the Nutter Center if Green Bay wins.
Horizon League semifinal
Detroit vs. Wright State, 6 p.m., ESPNU (10:30 p.m.), 100.3