DAYTON — Wright State will now forever be known as a NCAA Tournament winning team.
Never relinquishing its lead in the second half, the Raiders will head to San Diego after a 93-82 win in the First Four on Wednesday at UD Arena.
It was Wright State’s big three which led them to the win. Tanner Holden nearly had a career-high with 37 points, outscoring the nation’s leading scorer, Bryant’s Peter Kiss. Trey Calvin battled through illness to add 21, and Grant Basile had 14.
“It was a frantic paced game,” Raiders head coach Scott Nagy said. “We haven’t had many teams coming after us like that, every miss, every turnover.”
The Raiders will travel to play No. 1 Arizona on Friday with a scheduled tip time of 7:27 p.m.
Wright State faced constant full-court pressure throughout the game but handled it nicely with the team’s guards only committing five turnovers.
When applying its defense, Wright State also put the clamps down for most of the game on Kiss. Coming into the tournament averaging 25.1, he ended up getting his with 28 but had to work for it throughout the contest by putting up 25 shots.
Tim Finke was used as the primary defender and frustrated Kiss both on and off the ball.
A guy who never seemingly met a basket he didn’t celebrate, Kiss tried to fire himself and his team up with each make using theatrical outbursts, but Wright State was unfazed.
“Tim has been a fantastic defender,” Basile said. “We’ve known that all year. He showed that tonight. He made him work for it.”
For at least one night, UD Arena turned into Wright State’s home.
The normally red and blue stands turned green as Raiders fans made their presence felt with loud cheers and chants as its team played 12 miles from home.
“Since I’ve been here, we haven’t played in an atmosphere like that with so many people cheering for us,” Nagy said. “… It feels a little unfair but that’s the way it worked out. I was thankful if we were going to be a 16-seed we would get that chance.”
Basile said it was a good feeling getting to travel the short distance, and Basile echoed his thoughts.
“It was definite a good booster for us,” he said. “Emotionally, I thought the crowd did a great job being energetic, getting into it.”
The Raiders previously had lost in all three of its tournament appearances. Most recently in 2018, Wright State as a 14-seed lost to Tennessee.
The 93 points were the second-most by the Raiders in a game this season. Wright State built a two-point halftime lead to as much as 16 with Holden leading the charge.
Arizona as the next test will be a tougher task with more of a role reversal having to play on the west coast in a short time turnover. Nagy said without scouting ahead, he only know about the Wildcats’ size advantage and how it will be critical to control the paint.
Before worrying too much about the next round, Wright State has a win to celebrate. It’s an accomplishment for a program finding its footing and wanting to make a name for itself.
“We’re probably going to celebrate on the flight but right after that you’ve got to turn it around,” he said. “We’re going there to win. Like I said before, we’re not just coming in just for the experience of March Madness. We really want to win, really want to make a name for our schools, ourselves and this program.”
Wright State for at least one night has successfully met that goal.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.