Men’s Basketball: Raiders facing critical stretch

Justin Boggs, Sports Writer
February 13, 2014
Filed under Men's Basketball, Sports

With just four games left in Horizon League play, every game is a must-win for Billy Donlon’s Raiders.

Wright State is looking to avoid playing in the first round of the Horizon League Championship.

In order for WSU to gain a first round bye, it is going to need wins to catch Milwaukee and Valparaiso in the standings. Losses would send the Raiders on the road for the first round.

With so much to play for, Donlon is trying to keep his squad upbeat despite losing four of its last five including a tough 72-68 loss at home versus Cleveland State.

“A guy who coached me in Chicago, Vince Carter, who is a high school coach, anytime we lost one that is hard to swallow, we just made it a very competitive practice,” Donlon said. “I am sure (the players) are frustrated but they have great resiliency and you cannot got back and change Saturday.”

The Raiders’ (14-13, 6-6) next challenge is at Oakland (4-7, 9-17) Sunday. In order for WSU to win, Donlon said the team will need to improve its toughness which he said lacked in its contest Saturday.

“I think it has been a little bit of a surprise (the lack of toughness) just with the group we have back,” Donlon said. “That is all of us, even coaches… This team, more than any other (year), has been five possessions from having a completely different league record.”

Despite Wright State’s struggles this year, the Raiders still have the ability to meet its goal by going to the NCAA Tournament. In order for the Raiders to that, they will need to win the Horizon League Championship.

“What I am trying to remind them is that ultimately after our nonconference, the only way we were going to the NCAA Tournament was winning the Horizon League tournament,” Donlon said. “We’ve got to try to put ourselves in the best position to win.”

The Raiders sit fifth in the nine-team league with four games to play. Finishing third will afford WSU a first-round bye. Finishing any lower than sixth means WSU will play its first-round game on the road.

Even if the Raiders win out, there is no guarantee they get a first-round bye as they are two losses behind Valpo with one to play versus the Crusaders.

The Raiders will be without the services Sunday of guard Kendall Griffin who suffered a head-injury versus Youngstown State on Feb. 5. Donlon labeled the injury as potentially long term.

Griffin, who Donlon considers one of his elite defenders, might be a significant loss in trying to stop Oakland’s Travis Bader. Bader is the all-time record holder in men’s Division I for made 3-pointers beating out JJ Redick earlier in the season.

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