Men’s Basketball: Vest sparks Wright State’s second half rally over Detroit
For a moment in the second half of Friday’s contest versus Detroit, the 5,042 fans gathered in the Nutter Center were guests to the Late Show with Matt Vest.
The Raiders’ senior ignited the crowd and his team as the Raiders rallied in the second half to defeat Detroit 65-61.
Vest scored a season-high 16 in the win. The Raiders were led in scoring by AJ Pacher who fouled out with 19 points. Reggie Arceneaux helped the Raiders get on the board early and added 15 points.
“Really proud of our team to tough out a win,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “Every league game is difficult. Look around, they’re all challenging.”
Tavares Sledge helped on the glass with nine rebounds despite WSU being outrebounded 41-26.
“He was huge, he rebounded the ball great,” Pacher said about Sledge. “He played great defense too so he was big tonight.”
Vest’s efforts were seen on both ends of the court as he kept Detroit’s leading scorer Juwan Howard Jr. below his season average.
“What Matt Vest just did was incredible, he just won a game,” Donlon said. “We have great players, we have a good team, there is a lot of depth but Matt Vest on both sides of the ball for about eight minutes was the best player in the league. He’ll be showing this video to his grandkids.”
With the Raiders trailing 37-35 in the second half, Vest gave the Raiders their first lead of the game by going on an 8-0 on his own with a pair of 3s and a highlight dunk.
“He was incredible, he played his absolute heart out,” Pacher said about Vest. “It was an incredible stretch but you have to look at what he did defensively all night. That was so important and I am proud of him.”
Keeping Howard from scoring more than 16 points was a challenge Vest was up to Friday evening.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge guarding him, he is a really good player,” Vest said. “It was a challenge when we went to Detroit when I was on Howard. He is a little different than the guys I am used to, he is not a speed guy. He is really smooth and tough to guard.”
Wright State struggled to shoot early in the contest as it took the Raiders 8: 45 to drain their first field goal before Arceneaux drained back-to-back 3s.
Wright State trailed for the entire second half but cut a once nine-point deficit to one shortly before halftime. Pacher hit a 3-pointer to get the Raiders on a 10-3 run and to cut Detroit’s lead to 30-29 at the half.
Donlon said his seniors stayed even keeled when the squad was struggling early in the contest.
“I wasn’t pleasant in the huddle all night,” Donlon said. “I think those guys stayed unpleasant but even keeled. We made just enough toughness plays to win.”
After starting the season 0-9 when trailing at halftime, the Raiders have won back-to-back games when trailing at the half.
“I am really a simple person and I just worry about the things I can control and once the first half is played, I can’t go back and rewrite the score, ” Donlon said. “I wish we could figure out a way to make more baskets early in the game. We have to do a better job of that.”
The Raiders were a bit shorthanded for Friday’s contest. Wright State was without the services of guard Kendall Griffin who sat out his third in a row with a head injury.
Wright State was also without forward Jerran Young who made his second start of the season in Sunday’s win at Oakland. Young hurt his shoulder in practice Thursday. Donlon had pegged him to start Friday before suffering the injury.
Young is questionable for Tuesday’s senior night versus Valpo. Donlon considers Griffin out for Tuesday’s contest.
With the win, the Raiders control their own destiny in clinching a first-round bye in the Horizon League Championships. With Milwaukee and Valpo both losing Thursday, the Raiders’ path to third place is as easy as beating Valpo and UIC to finish the season.
Pacher and Vest admitted that they watched the scoreboard Thursday evening to see the pair of assists they received from Youngstown State and Green Bay.
“Games get bigger with each game,” Vest said. “We know we control our destiny to the third place spot and that is what our goal is; to get to third place and control what we can control.”
With Green Bay’s win over Valpo Thursday evening, the Phoenix clinched the No. 1 seed for the Horizon League Championships and will host the quarterfinals, semifinals and potentially the finals of the league’s postseason tournament.