The tables turned in the final five minutes Saturday as Wright State’s starters cheered on four freshmen and a sophomore walk-on. Those players had been doing the same for the starters all game.
Reggie Arceneaux jumped up from his chair, waving a Gatorade towel. A smiling Matt Vest, a towel around his neck and a water bottle in his hand, chatted with J.T. Yoho and AJ Pacher.
Billy Donlon kept coaching, but it might turn out to be the least nerve-wracking finish of the season. The Raiders shot 62 percent in the second half and routed Virginia Military Institute 92-59 at the Nutter Center.
The victory soothes some of the sting from Monday’s 54-41 loss at Bowling Green. The Raiders (6-3) had 41 points less than three minutes into the second half in this one.
“We knew we had something to prove again,” sophomore guard Reggie Arceneaux said. “We were picked to finish last. We never forgot that. Bowling Green was a team we were supposed to beat. We felt VMI was a team we were supposed to beat. We showed that tonight.”
Arceneaux scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting. After a three-game stretch earlier this season when he scored a total of 15 points, Arceneaux has hit double figures in three of the last four games.
Donlon said those are encouraging numbers, but he also wants to downplay Arceneaux’s scoring contributions because he wants him focused on being the point guard.
“The key numbers are 7 assists, 3 turnovers and 3 steals in 29 minutes,” Donlon said. “If he hadn’t let his shot impact him mentally in some other games, I think we’d have some other outcomes, and that isn’t me holding him accountable or saying he’s responsible for the losses. I’m responsible for the losses.
“The other thing is Reggie is a sophomore. He’s going to have some maturation to do as a player. He went through a tough spell, and now the best thing is he can see how he’s impacting a game.”
Miles Dixon added 15 points, hitting double figures for the fourth time. Matt Vest had 11 points and 5 rebounds and tied a career-high with 6 assists. Kendall Griffin scored 10 points. Jerran Young had 6 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.
AJ Pacher played nine minutes, helping to fill in for Cole Darling, who missed the game with a shoulder injury. Despite not practicing all week because of a foot injury, Pacher had 6 points.
“I know what it’s like to go through injuries,” Vest said. “It was great to see him go out there and play well, and it wasn’t just his scoring. It was his rebounding, his talk, getting deflections.”
The Raiders led 38-28 at halftime, but early on, it was all VMI (4-6). The Keydets jumped out to a 16-6 lead.
The Raiders weren’t getting anything to drop, but they started to figure out VMI’s defense and found easy buckets in transition. They took control of the game with a 15-0 run that featured fast-break layups by Arceneaux, Dixon and Griffin.
“They came out and shot the ball really well,” Vest said. “We expected that. They’re very offensive-minded. They can fill it up in a hurry. Once we settled down a little bit and started guarding the 3-point line, we got some clean rebounds, and Reggie was able to get out in transition. We got some easy baskets that way.”