Wright State’s 20th victory got it a seat at the kitchen table, a spot in the Horizon League final four, where the remaining teams will scrap for the one big turkey leg all nine conference teams dream about — the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
The Raiders beat Youngstown State 66-59 on Friday at Valparaiso, earning a date with Detroit at 6 tonight. The Titans won this tournament last season as the third seed. The Raiders are trying to do the same this season.
The teams split in the regular season. Anything goes tonight, but there’s no doubt a second-seeded Detroit team that starts three seniors and features this season’s Horizon League Player of the Year, junior Ray McCallum, will be the favorite.
Both teams are 20-11.
“They’re really good,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “They’ve got some of the best guys in the league. Their starting five can all get in double figures.
“We have to make it a possession game. If it’s a 70- to 80-possession game, it’s probably not good for us against Detroit because of what they bring to the table. Our kids will play really hard. They’ll compete. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to win down the stretch.”
Wright State beat Detroit 64-62 on Jan. 21 as McCallum came up short on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Detroit beat Wright State 83-76 on Jan. 30. The Raiders led 41-40 at halftime in the second game, but the Titans pulled away in the final minutes.
Dixon’s big game: Wright State junior guard Miles Dixon, who hadn’t scored more than six points in the last four games, had 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half.
The Raiders trailed 7-2 after four minutes, but Dixon got the offense going with two 3-pointers in the next three minutes.
“It’s different guys every game,” Dixon said. “Anybody can step up. I guess tonight was my night to step up.”
Perry plays: Youngstown State junior Kendrick Perry, a member of the All-Horizon League first team, had missed four games in a row with a knee injury, but the Raiders prepared as if he were going to play.
Perry had all 11 of his points in the second half and played 25 minutes.
“Physically, I don’t think there was any rust,” Perry said. “Mentally, I think it held me back attacking-wise in the first half.”
Long-range struggles: Kamren Belin led the Penguins with 20 points and hit 4-of-7 3-pointers. Blake Allen, who averages 11.7 points, scored 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting and missed all eight of his 3-point attempts.
Youngstown made 5-of-19 3-pointers (26 percent).
“Our plan was when you’re out as long as Kendrick Perry was, the most comfortable thing for you to try to get in the game is by making 3s,” Donlon said. “We wanted to try to make it really hard for Belin, Allen and Perry to make 3s. We didn’t do a great job on Belin, especially in the second half. Of the eight 3s Allen missed, a lot were hard shots.”
Yoho’s shot: Wright State freshman J.T. Yoho scored all eight of his points in the second half, and four came on one play. With 14:27 left in the game, he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled and made the free throw, giving the Raiders a 43-29 lead.