No one knew what to expect from this Wright State team back in November.
Four months later, the resilient Raiders, who have now played in more games than any Wright State team ever and have won as many games as any Wright State team playing a Division I schedule, left the Nutter Center after another amazing victory not knowing what to expect themselves. All they knew at 9:30 p.m. Monday was that they would get up this morning and keep playing basketball, and really that’s all that mattered.
Wright State beat Richmond 57-51 in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational, closing the game with a 12-3 run in the final four minutes. The Raiders (23-12) will host Santa Clara (Calif.) Wednesday at 9 p.m. at the Nutter Center. That matchup was announced just before midnight.
“We have a lot of momentum,” said junior guard Miles Dixon, who led Wright State with 14 points. “We’re rolling. It feels great to win 23 games and make history at Wright State and make Wright State proud.”
The CBI re-brackets the tournament after the quarterfinal games to match up teams by location. In the other quarterfinal games Monday, George Mason beat Houston 88-84, Santa Clara (Calif.) won 86-83 at Purdue and Western Michigan won 75-67 at Wyoming in overtime.
“I think it’s kind of neat,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “Just go play your game and figure it out after. It’s unlike any other thing. It makes sense. We’re going to shower, meet up in the pavilion and get told who we play, and whoever we play will be outstanding.”
After the game, Donlon thought the Raiders would be playing on the road for sure. He said the team would get on a bus or board a plane in the morning for their next game. Athletic Director Bob Grant said if Wyoming had lost, the Raiders would have played at George Mason.
Instead, because so many of the teams that had agreed to host later-round games lost in the tournament, including Wyoming, which would have hosted a semifinal, Wright State was asked by the CBI to host on Wednesday. Grant started getting calls about hosting after the game Monday.
“My answer was the same, ‘Financially, it doesn’t work for us,’” Grant said. “But our building is available. No one wants to keep our guys at home more than I do from an academic standpont.”
Wright State paid $35,000 to host the first-round game, but since it didn’t agree beforehand to host any more games, Grant doesn’t expect to lose money by hosting in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Typically, a semifinal game costs $55,000 for the host team. Grant said he would get creative with the CBI to work out an arrangement that works for both.
“Financially, we’ll be fine with this,” he said.
With the victory, Wright State matched the 2006-07 Raiders (23-10) for most wins since the program moved to Division I in 1987. Prior to this season, the Raiders had never played more than 33 games in a season, and now they will play at least 36.
Wright State beat Richmond in a game that featured 15 ties and 16 lead changes, by making 14-of-18 free throws and holding Richmond to 4-of-18 shooting from 3-point range.
The Raiders trailed 48-45 with 3:44 left when Reggie Arceneaux hit a tying 3-pointer. On the next possession, Dixon put the Raiders ahead with a layup.
A jumper by Young with 1:36 to go and then a steal and dunk by Young with 1:08 to go put the Raiders up 54-48. Richmond’s Greg Robbins hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left, but Young hit two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“This team has been a joy to coach,” Donlon said. “It’s an incredible team. There’s a lot of kids not playing anymore this season. These guys are still playing when a lot of people didn’t believe in them. They’ve got a lot to hold their heads high about.”