NKU halts Raiders season Horizon League Tournament
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With dancing on their mind and the hope that the saying “third times a charm” would work in their favor, Wright State’s basketball team had their dreams halted in Detroit, as the heartbreak would be what Coach Nagy considered living.
“I tell these guys, this is what living feels like,” Nagy said. “Most people never pour their hearts into something the way a basketball team does and sometimes it’s unbelievably exhilarating, and sometimes it’s incredibly painful but there’s no in-between.”
The Raiders season ended at the hands of the Northern Kentucky Norse this season. The Raiders fell in a 77-82 loss, in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament at Joe Lewis Arena, on Sunday, March 5.
With the loss, Wright State failed to reach the tournament final for only the second time in five years. It’s also third loss the Norse had handed Wright State this season.
Despite the loss, Nagy was proud of the way his team performed this season.
“I love coaching these guys. I’m super proud of them. I think, really, we’ve overachieved.”
In the first half the Raiders played NKU tight, as they went into halftime only down by two. However, similar to their previous two matchups against the Norse, Wright State failed to stop a Northern Kentucky team that caught fire in the second half.
Despite 50 second half points from the Raiders, NKU’s 53 second half points on 66 percent shooting from the floor, sealed the fate of the Raiders season, ending their dreams of dancing in the NCAA tournament, after top seeded Oakland and Valparaiso lost their previous games.
Junior, Grant Benzinger, led all players in scoring with 29 points, 23 of those coming in the second half. Junior, Justin Mitchell flirted with a triple-double scoring 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. First Team All-Horizon League player Mark Alstork added 22 points.
Benzinger set a career high in three pointers with seven but despite the achievement his focus was on seniors Mike La Tulip and Steven Davis whose careers as Raiders ended on Sunday night.
“It doesn’t matter right now,” Benzinger said. “Mike and Steve, this was their last games ever and it’s a terrible feeling for us underclassmen who couldn’t get the job done for them and all the personal accolades doesn’t matter right now, just a bad feeling.”
Mitchell reflected Benzinger’s sentiment’s about the feeling of disappointment of not winning for La Tulip and Davis as well as the coaching staff.
“It’s more disappointing because those seniors Steven Davis and Mike La Tulip gave us everything they could,” an emotional Mitchell said following the loss, “and we wanted to win a championship for them and for Coach Nagy as well and the rest of the coaching staff because it was their first year here.”
Despite the disappointment that followed the loss and the sting of knowing the season had come to an end, Nagy continued to reiterate to his squad that this feeling is all a part of living.
“Most people just live in-between and when you really live, and really pour your heart into something, and believe, and fight, and scratch, and you don’t get it, and it hurts really bad that’s what living feels like. And I would rather they do that for the rest of their life whatever their passions are.”