Wright State’s quirky Horizon League schedule leaves it with eight days to ponder Tuesday’s 68-61 loss to Valparaiso at the Nutter Center.
The Raiders had a similar break in January after their 4-0 start in league play. Earlier this month, someone joked to coach Billy Donlon that maybe next year his team could just play all its games in January and take February off. That’s kind of how it seems this year. The Raiders don’t play again until Feb. 20 at Cleveland State.
“We just played four games in eight days,” Donlon said. “We’ve got to get their bodies back. That’s important. But now you’ve got to get their minds right, and you’ve got to build confidence and move forward. They’ll have (Wednesday) off. They’ll need it.
“One of the ways you get your confidence back is by having your bodies feel really good. Everyone in college basketball is sore at this point. It’s not exclusive to Wright State. But we’ve got an opportunity because of the time off to get right physically.”
Including the Cleveland State game, the Raiders have three conference games remaining. They play at Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 26 and host Youngstown State in the regular-season finale on March 2. There’s also the BracketBusters game against Evansville at the Nutter Center on Feb. 23.
Dixon impresses: Wright State junior guard Miles Dixon has scored in double figures only twice in the last 12 games, but in some ways, he’s one of the team’s most consistent performers. Nine times this year, he’s scored between six and eight points.
Dixon had 13 points in Tuesday’s loss on 4-of-8 shooting. He was 5-of-5 at the free-throw line.
“Miles played a great game on both ends of the floor,” Donlon said. “He’s going to attack every time he has the ball. He’s learning that it’s not always great to catch it the very first time in the open court and just put your head down and go. The defense is set. Now that he’s adjusted to that, he’s been better. He’s also learning our defensive style. It’s not easy.”
Van Wijk stars: Valparaiso’s Kevin Van Wijk had 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He also made 4-of-5 free throws, leading a team effort that saw the Crusaders make 18-of-20.
“I thought Kevin was sensational tonight,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “We know Wright State plays some of the better defense in the country. He hit some tough shots and really posted up hard and had nine rebounds. It’s obviously one of his best all-around efforts of the year.”
Darling’s game: Cole Darling scored eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. What stood out for Donlon is Darling didn’t get to the free-throw line in 30 minutes. Darling made 1o-of-13 free throws in the first game against Valparaiso, a 69-63 loss on Jan. 19.
“That’s something we’ll look at,” Donlon said, “and see how we can correct that and see if there’s something from a skill standpoint or a teaching standpoint with Cole to get him to the free-throw line more.”
Around the league: Last-place Milwaukee beat Loyola 71-53 on Tuesday. The Panthers (6-20, 2-10) edged closer to Loyola (13-12, 3-9).
Detroit clobbered Cleveland State 92-62. The Titans (17-9, 9-4) broke a second-place tie with Wright State (17-9, 8-5). Cleveland State (12-14, 4-8) remains in seventh place.
Detroit plays at Valparaiso (20-6, 10-2) on Saturday.