Men’s Basketball: Raiders prepare for regular season finale
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There was a marked level of irony involved with Wright State’s nine-point win over Valparaiso on Tuesday.
Beating Valpo meant the Raiders kept their hopes of a first-round bye alive and thus avoiding a possible home game in the Nutter Center next week.
Wright State went 13-2 at home this year. Though WSU’s five seniors would love to play another game in the Nutter Center, avoiding having to play a first-round game is more important for the Raiders.
“Certainly in our league with all of the competitive balance, the biggest thing about the bye is you’re skipping a round,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “You can’t lose by getting a bye. In our league, the eight other teams we could play against, anybody can beat anybody.”
Donlon also found irony in sweeping the team that prevented the Raiders from going to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
“I thought it was a little apropos that we beat the team that stopped those five seniors from going to the NCAA Tournament,” Donlon said. “I feel good for those guys that is how it worked out.”’
In order to get the coveted first-round bye, the Raiders will likely have to earn it. If WSU tops UIC Saturday, the Raiders advance directly to the Horizon League quarterfinal round in Green Bay.
A loss means their tournament destiny will be determined by what Valpo does against Cleveland State. A Valpo wins will mean the Raiders have to come back to Fairborn Tuesday to play another game against UIC.
“We are playing them on their senior night and they have four seniors,” Donlon said about UIC. “We’ll have to come in business like and control the things we can control.”
Until Tuesday, UIC was on a 17-game losing streak and winless in conference play. The Flames broke their losing streak with an impressive 22-point win at Milwaukee.
“They didn’t do anything different, people forget that UIC was up 15 against Milwaukee,” Donlon said. “Fans look at the record and I get that. But as a coach, I don’t look at the record, I look at how they played and they have had some games where the score is lopsided but for the most part, they have been in games.”
Wright State goes into Saturday’s contest on a three-game winning streak. This is following a stretch where the Raiders lost four out of five and appeared to be destined to having to play in the first round.
But a come-from-behind win at Oakland two weeks ago has reignited a comatose Raiders squad to a team that appears ready for the rigors of the Horizon League Championships.
“I think our guys are playing well, we’re doing some things better that we did not do earlier in the season,” Donlon said. “I still think we are not taking care of the basketball the way we could. If we get into a game where we have 14,15, 16 turnovers, it is going to come back to haunt us.”