Men’s Basketball: Wright State opens CIT with win at ECU
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Wright State continued its season Tuesday in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament after a heartbreaking loss in the Horizon League finals on March 11.
The decision to continue the Raiders’ season was challenging but based on Tuesday’s result, a good one.
The Raiders bounced the defending champs of the CIT with an impressive 73-59 at East Carolina, ending the Pirates’ season.
“Sometimes you don’t get the ultimate prize but the things our kids have been through does not reveal their character,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “Everybody contributed, everybody got better, we are in a tournament atmosphere, it is win or go home and we found a way to get it done.”
The Raiders await their next opponent who is yet to be determined. The CIT does not have a bracket and arranges matchups based on geography.
Senior forward AJ Pacher scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half leading the way for WSU. Matt Vest, Reggie Arceneaux, and Cole Darling joined Pacher in double figures.
ECU’s Prince Williams came off the bench to score 20.
Wright State never trailed in Tuesday’s game.
The Raiders broke the Pirates’ zone defense by shooting 61 percent and outrebounding ECU 29-24.
“We started getting it in and then we got some open looks,” Donlon said. “They just played with a lot of confidence offensively and put it into short corner and the high post. At the end of the day, you have to get the ball there.”
Late in the contest, the Pirates switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man which allowed Pacher to make 8-of-9 second half field goal attempts.
“They went to man and we got it into AJ and he did the job for us,” said Donlon.
Vest was tasked with stopping ECU’s leading scorer Akeem Richmond who averages 18 points a contest. Vest did the job as Richmond shot 2-for-8 from the field and scored six.
Wright State took a 7-0 lead holding ECU 0-for-5 shooting in the opening minutes of the game. The Pirates climbed back into the contest drawing within one at 18-17 with 8:07 left.
WSU pulled away late in the first half with an 11-2 run as Chrishawn Hopkins converted on a four-point play.
The Raiders led 31-24 at halftime as Vest led the way with 11 points in the first. Vest converted on a trio of 3-pointers.
ECU cut WSU’s lead to 33-30 1:30 into the second. After that, Wright State went on a 13-0 run sparked by a pair of Arceneaux 3s. Paris Campbell broke the 13-0 run with 14:43 left.
After building up a 16-point lead, ECU chipped away. Williams’ jumper with 4:55 left cut WSU’s lead to 61-57 and gave the Panthers a 9-0 run.
“They were going to make a run, when you’re on someone else’s home court, there is going to be a run,” Donlon said. “We called one timeout and it didn’t work and then we called another timeout and then Cole made a layup which helped ice the game for us.”
Pacher broke the 9-0 run with a long 3-pointer with 4:20 to go to give WSU a seven-point advantage. Pacher’s 3 started a 9-0 run for WSU to help put the game away.
Wright State Director of Athletics Bob Grant said future home games for the Raiders are possible.
“We didn’t promise this tournament we would host any games,” Grant said. “We’ll never say never. If we go on a run here and it makes some sense and we get some buzz going, we’ll certainly look at it.”
According to Grant, playing on the road in tournaments is a more cost-effective proposition than hosting at the Nutter Center.
“By not hosting initially, we’ll mitigate any financial issues,” Grant said.