INDIANAPOLIS — A 2-7 start to the season far behind them, Wright State now finds itself 40 minutes from a berth in the big dance.
The Raiders used hot shooting early to build a double-digit advantage against the Horizon Legaue’s top-seed and cruised to an 82-67 win in the semifinals on Monday.
“I felt like we’re ready to play two days ago,” Raiders head coach Scott Nagy said. “I tell them this time of year they don’t need my voice, it’s their team. And they’ve taken that over.”
Wright State will play the winner of Purdue Fort Wayne and Northern Kentucky, which ended late, at 7 p.m., on Tuesday back at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Wright State built up a 17-point lead out of halftime before CSU began its run at a comeback. The Vikings got as close as seven with 9:06 remaining before a three by Keaton Norris grew the lead back to double digits for good.
Exclamation point dunks by Grant Basile and Tim Finke in the game’s final minutes put a cap on an impressive effort by Wright State.
“When they’re making a run you can get discouraged and you know, you can react negatively and our guys didn’t,” Nagy said. “Games leading up to this, several of them, we’ve been down in the second half and remained confident. … Our guys are growing, you can see their belief is growing. And so it’s a lot of fun for me as a coach to watch.”
Basile had 27 points and 11 rebounds for the Raiders, while Trey Calvin added 17 and 11. Tanner Holden, Finke and Norris rounded out five Raiders in double figures.
Wright State’s rough start to the season saw it drop six of seven away from home, including a loss to CSU.
The Raiders were able to get its ship sailing in the right direction by following it up with a seven-game winning streak that helped produced a 6-1 start in league play.
“Our thing that we’ve been saying lately is just stay level headed,” Basile said. “Just there’s a lot of ups and downs in the game, and we just got to stay level headed. Whatever happens to go our way playing, we’ll be ready to go.”
Finishing the season 4-2 against the teams ahead of it, an uneven league schedule help push WSU into the No. 4-seed for the league tournament.
For an experienced group that were co-champions in the regular season last year before being upset in the opening round of the tournament, the season-long bounce back helped put WSU into a better position to redeem that performance.
WSU last put on its dancing shoes in 2018 during Nagy’s second season, and the current roster only has one holdover on that team.
Wright State now heads into Tuesday’s final in a position where it can forget about past miscues and have one more win finish off a remarkable turn around.
“I know we’ll get a good night’s rest to wake up in the morning,” Holden said. “You got to kind of refocus because you can’t sit on this on for too long. You got to be ready to play for tomorrow.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.