The question came from the back of the room during post-game news conference. It had to be asked. Wright State senior Cole Darling didn’t hesitate before answering.
“What do you want from Santa?”
“More wins,” Darling said.
The Raiders beat Missouri-Kansas City 61-49 on Saturday at the Nutter Center to return to .500 at 7-7. They can celebrate Christmas this week without the sense of unease that plagued the team during the four-game losing streak that ended Thursday with a 70-43 victory over Eastern Illinois.
A return home seemed to be the answer for Wright State. They’re 0-7 in road games, 1-0 on a neutral court and 6-0 at home. They have one more non-conference game, at 3 p.m. Dec. 29 against Bowling Green at home, before beginning a stretch of 16 straight Horizon League games.
“We hit rock bottom before these last couple games,” Darling said. “For us, there was nowhere to go but up. It’s good to have a little break coming up. We’re coming back against a good Bowling Green team. Then we start league play. It’s really important to keep this going.”
Darling attempted just one shot in the first half and scored three points, but he added 12 in the second half on 4-of-8 shooting to lead the Raiders in scoring. He also made 5-of-5 free throws.
Turnovers stopped Wright State from turning this into an easy victory. The Raiders had 19, one short of the season high they set six days earlier in a 59-56 loss at Miami.
Reggie Arceneaux had five turnovers and no assists. Chrishawn Hopkins had four assists and one turnover in the first half and four turnovers and no assists in the second half.
The biggest statistical difference in the game was at the free-throw line. Wright State made 23-of-28 (82 percent) free throws, and the Kangaroos hit 10-of-14 (71 percent). The Raiders scored 10 points at the line in the last four minutes as Kansas City tried to rally from 19 points down — it got no closer than seven points — but had a big advantage there throughout the game.
Wright State outscored Kansas City 9-1 at the line in the first half. That included two free throws by Matt Vest, who was fouled on a 3-point attempt as time expired. His shots gave the Raiders a 34-24 halftime lead.
A 9-0 run over the first five minutes of the second half gave the Raiders full control of the game. Defense was as big a part of that run as offense.
“The last five halves, we’ve held people to no more than 25 points,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “As I told the guys, if we had played this kind of defense early in the season, it might be a little different. That’s not to make them feel bad. That’s more for the future.”
Bowling Green at Wright State, 3 p.m. Dec. 29, Dayton CW, 106.5