Men’s Basketball: Darling’s effort helps Raiders break skid
After missing a pair of games, Cole Darling came back with a season-high 20 points to help Wright State break a three-game losing skid and top Youngstown State 77-67 Wednesday.
The Raiders improve to 14-12 overall, 6-5 in Horizon League play and 11-1 at home.
“It was a team win,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “Cole Darling was great. Across the board, this was the hardest we posted up. And the key is we have posted up hard but we haven’t been able to throw the ball inside. We did a better job of feeding the post.”
The Raiders showed their depth in Wednesday’s contest. Including Darling, the Raiders had five players reach double figures. Four of the five players in double figures came off the bench.
“It definitely felt good being out there,” Darling said. “We had a good couple days of practice, we definitely picked up the intensity in practice which I think got us right for this game.”
All four of those bench players in double figures played the last few minutes of the game helping to preserve WSU’s victory.
The Raiders’ bench dominated the Penguins’ reserves by outscoring YSU’s bench 51-7.
While Wright State flaunted its depth, Youngstown State struggled as five players had at least four fouls. Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum was forced to use players who had four fouls for long stretches of the second half.
“Our depth helps us for two reasons, it wears the other team down and fouls,” Donlon said. “I coach them everyday, there is a marginal difference between players on our roster. That is a very good thing if you buy into it.”
Wright State got to the line 35 times, the most since a win on Nov. 30 when the Raiders reached the line 40 times. Drawing fouls and getting inside were points of emphasis according to Darling.
“Just throwing the ball inside as a whole. We have good post players and watching film. The coaches made an emphasis of getting inside because we can score,” Darling said.
Darling missed the last two games after sustaining a hard screen at Youngstown State 11 days ago. Wright State guard Kendall Griffin left Wednesday’s game in a similar way Darling left at Youngstown State on Jan. 25.
Griffin took a blow to the head from Penguins forward Ryan Weber. Weber was given a flagrant 1 with 4:28 left in the first half with Youngstown State up six.
Though Donlon could not get into specifics on Griffin’s injury, he said his team responded well to losing one of its top defenders.
“When Kendall is in the game, he is normally pretty good offensively,” Donlon said. “I just thought our guys realized it was an eerily familiar situation. We just went through it 10 days ago. I think our guys responded in the way they needed to.”
WSU forward AJ Pacher was held out of the starting lineup for the first time all season. He only scored three and five points respectively in the last two games after scoring in double figures in 13 contests this season.
Donlon liked Pacher’s response to being benched as the senior forward scored 10 Wednesday.
“He was great,” said Donlon. “The first half was challenging, he hasn’t come off the bench all season. So there was a challenge in the first half but in the second half, he was great.”
Guard Chrishawn Hopkins came off the bench and reached double figures for the third time this year by contributing 11 points. His presence was needed as fellow guard Miles Dixon sat out Wednesday’s game and Griffin missed the entire second half.
“It is easier for me to come off the bench,” Hopkins said. “I get to see the flow of the game and once I come in, I know what I need to do.”
WSU has five games left to improve its standing in the Horizon League. Its next game against Cleveland State is a critical one as WSU is chasing the Vikings in the standings.