Men’s Basketball: Wright State ends Oakland’s season in Horizon League quarterfinals
Powered by a season-high 20 points from senior guard Miles Dixon, No. 3-seed Wright State never trailed No. 6-seed Oakland in a 73-57 win at Green Bay Friday in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championships.
The victory earns Wright State an opportunity to make the league title game in back-to-back seasons. In order to complete the task, the Raiders will have to defeat Cleveland State Saturday evening.
With Wright State starting forwards Cole Darling and AJ Pacher being neutralized with foul trouble, the Raiders went to the perimeter and made 9-of-19 from beyond the arc.
“If you are going to pack it in as much as Oakland does, the only way you’re going to get them out of that is you have to have great ball and player movement,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “We took the first open 3s in the first half and it was a little fools gold early. We can make them, but I thought we needed to drive them to make guys step up. Credit to those guys the way they played.”
Dixon paced the squad with a pair of early treys followed by three 3-pointers by Matt Vest. Vest had 11 in the contest to join Dixon in double figures.
“We knew they were probably going to pack it in on AJ,” Vest said. “We have really good players and good shooters and it just got contagious at the beginning. Miles hit a couple and started getting contagious and we can do that. We can hit nine 3s in a game.”
The Raiders’ victory ended the career of the NCAA’s all-time leader of made 3-pointers Travis Bader. Bader made three 3-pointers in Friday’s contest. He finished his career with 504 treys.
Bader came into Friday’s contest red hot, as he scored 39 in the Grizzlies’ win versus Youngstown State Tuesday. He was held to a mere 20 versus the Raiders.
“He makes shots you can’t guard,” Vest said. “I knew he was capable of getting 20, he was capable of getting 40. Just try to do my best (guarding him) and thankfully we came out with the win.”
Dixon nearly matched his career high of 21 with his 20-point performance. He opted to pass on a wide-open shot in the closing minutes of the contest.
“It can be anybody on any night,” Dixon said. “I am glad we came out with the win.”
Dixon said he was reminded of last year’s loss to Valpo in the Horizon League title game.
“After Valpo beat us, it left a bad taste in our mouth,” Dixon said.
Wright State had a 22-10 lead midway through the first as Dixon had 11 in the first five minutes of the game.
Oakland got within three at 27-24 with 3:25 left in the first. The three-point margin was as close as the Golden Grizzlies would get for the contest.
The Raiders went into halftime with a 30-25 lead as Dixon had 14 in the first half; Bader had 13.
From halftime, Vest kept Bader in check as he scored seven in the second half.
“When he makes shot, the other guys gain confidence,” Donlon said.
Wright State jumped out to a 9-0 run early in the second half powered by a pair of Vest 3s to go up 41-27 with 15:51 left.
Minutes later, JY Yoho hit a layup to give WSU a 15-point lead.
Midway through the second, Oakland went on an 8-0 run to cut WSU’s lead to seven. Yoho responded with a 3 to give the Raiders a 10-point lead with 10 minutes left.
Wright State slowly built up a 15-point lead as Sledge made back-to-back dunks.
Next for Wright State is its showdown Saturday at 7 p.m. versus Cleveland State. The Raiders split the season series in two tightly contested ballgames versus the Vikings.
“I just try to get to the next game and hope the guys feel good about how they’re playing,” Donlon said. “We’re going to play a very good team. I voted three Cleveland State players All-Conference.”