Raiders ready for start of conference play

Justin Boggs, Sports Writer
December 31, 2013
Filed under Men's Basketball, Sports

Despite Oakland’s record, Wright State head coach Billy Donlon is expecting a tough challenge Thursday evening to kick off Horizon League play.

The Golden Grizzlies (5-10) are playing their first ever Horizon League contest but the Raiders are quite familiar with the challenges Oakland will pose. The top challenge for WSU is stop Travis Bader.

Bader is leading the nation in made 3-pointers this year and is 29 3-pointers away from setting the all-time NCAA mark.

“Just do the best you can,” Donlon said on guarding Bader. “He’s really good, there is a reason why he’ll probably become the top 3-point maker. They put you in peril with what they do with him.”

Oakland’s nonconference record might have been better had the Grizzlies played an easier schedule. Oakland played the seventh-strongest Division I schedule according to CBS Sports. By contrast, the Raiders had the 11th worst strength of schedule.

Oakland nearly knocked off No. 5-ranked Michigan State last month in the Palace at Auburn Hills as the Grizzlies led for much of the contest.

“We have all played different kinds of nonconference schedules and the team we’re playing against has the toughest one,” Donlon said. “It is not even close. So you take Oakland’s statistics and just throw them out the window.”

Despite Thursday being the first time the Grizzlies and Raiders have played against each other in the Horizon League, the two squads have met three times since the programs have joined Division I. The last meeting was in 2010-11 when WSU won by three. Donlon said that it was one of the best games played in the Nutter Center.

“They’ll fit in well from a geographical standpoint, there is a good recruiting base up there,” Donlon said. “Oakland is a good university, fits in well with what our league stands for. We’re excited to have them join.”

The Raiders enter Thursday’s contest with a 7-0 record at home in the nonconference schedule. However both the Raiders and Grizzlies enter Thursday’s contest 0-7 on the road.

“The one BCS team (Oakland) played at a neutral site, it was a great game against Michigan State,” Donlon said.

WSU guard Miles Dixon said the seven tough road games prepared the Raiders well for the upcoming conference season.

“We were on the a lot and our seven losses came from being on the road,” Dixon said. “It taught us a lot of how valuable those games are and rough they’ll be. We’ll bounce back from adversity too because we came home and won some games.”

The Raiders are hoping to redeem themselves after a tough nonconference slate and losing the Horizon League title game last season.

“We’re starting off 0-0 and these are the money games,” Dixon said. “We still have a sour feeling in our mouth from last year. We want to prove ourselves again.”

Donlon said Tuesday before practice he expected forward Cole Darling to return to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.

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