The beginning of the season is such an exciting time for D1 teams. It’s the first chance to show off what to expect for the season, and even more so, there are finally actual, real-life people filling the stands instead of cardboard cut-outs. Wright State’s first showing was against Lake Erie, a DII school, and they predictably dominated their opponent.
Lake Erie may have been the first match, but they were the warm up. The first true test was going into West Virginia and taking on Marshall, a similarly ranked college out of C-USA. Hoping to take the all-time series to a 2-2 tie, the Raiders began their night.
Wright State started the game against Marshall with uncharacteristically sloppy play. No one was able to keep their hands on the ball as Marshall put grit and grind into taking the ball from the offense. In no time flat, Marshall had taken a double digit lead and wasn’t looking like they were stopping. They could not be stopped under the paint, and made sure the game was a media manager’s wet dream, making plenty of film-worthy dunks on the Raiders.
Then, The Herd started missing. Most of these were just bad looks, but some of these missed shots reeked of arrogance. At least two turnovers in the first few minutes were because of attempted alley-oops, a product of Marshall having near uncontested fun at the rim. The Herd had started taking penalty after penalty, losing drives and chances at the rim due to overly physical play.
Wright State smelled blood and took advantage, tightening up their control of the paint and consistently rebounding the ball on the defensive side. After multiple runs that saw Marshall’s lead shrink, the Raiders first lead came with four minutes left on the clock, going up 34-33. After some more fouls on both sides of the ball, the game went into the half knotted at 43-43.
Tanner Holden and Riley Voss took every open lane they could and just couldn’t miss, combining for 19 points in the half. Basile, who led the Raiders with 15 points at the half, had some good open layups, but also really benefited from Marshall’s struggle to stay off of him, shooting 7 of 8 from the free throw line.
Once the half began, the two teams tried desperately to separate themselves from their opponent. Marshall and Wright State kept the score locked until a 9-2 run gave the Raiders a 65-57 lead. Back and forth play continued with Marshall trying to solve the puzzle of Grant Basile and Wright State trying to convert consistently. From there, a scoring lull took over the Raiders and Marshall retook the lead with four minutes left, going up 77-78. A costly final foul sat Basile down just a minute later. From there, despite Wright State’s best effort to claw back into the game, Marshall kept pace with near-perfect shooting to end the game 96-88.
The second half was all about Basile. Nothing and no one could stop him. You think you have him covered? Watch him float this straight into the net. Oh, you forgot where this giant of a man was and he has the ball now? Prepare to get dunked on. Surely he’s no threat outside the arc? Nah, this isn’t Loudon Love, Basile can shoot from anywhere. You’ve got him covered? No, you don’t. He just waltzed right past you to lay it up. You better not forget where Tanner Holden is either; if you think you’ve got Basile locked down, chances are you don’t have Holden as he comes streaking to finish what Basile couldn’t. Basile finished with a career high 37 points and Tanner Holden with 25.
On the flip side, Trey Calvin and Tim Finke just couldn’t win for losing. Finke went 2-12, converting on zero jumpers and a quarter of his attempted threes. However, he was the leading rebounder for the Raiders, keeping the Herd from creating too many second chances. Calvin had great looks and created separation for himself to drive at the rim, but was blocked from behind three times in the paint while the rest hopped off the rim. Both players finished with 6 points a piece.
Following the tough loss at Marshall, Wright State had a completely different challenge ahead of them. Purdue, currently ranked 6th nationally, was waiting for them in West Lafayette.
I’m not going to bury the lede here, this game was never close. After three quick points from the Raiders’ Tanner Holden, Purdue went on a 14-0 run that showcased every bit of their talent. For the first eight minutes, the only one who saw the ball go inside the net was Holden with 7 points. After Calvin put himself on the board with a three, the Boilermakers went on another deep 13-0 run. The betting line for this game was -18, and Purdue covered it by the third media timeout. The half ended 51-17 in Purdue’s favor.
Purdue knew who to cover going into this game and did it efficiently. Their 7-4 guard, Zach Edey, made the game a nightmare for Basile. Every effort that Basile made to get to the rim or get the ball up on a floater was stymied by this living golem of a player. Holden was able to get a couple of good looks early, but also had troubles getting into the paint to do his own magic. All the while, the Boilermakers made sure to out-rebound the Raiders substantially, never giving them an opportunity to produce second chances as they took a 28-13 margin by the end of the half.
Coming out of the half, it was expected that more of the same domination from Purdue would happen, but then a hero came out of the ashes to keep the Raiders competitive.
Calvin started the second half of the contest blazing, scoring 8 points in under four minutes to cut the deficit some. He had stolen passes, gotten himself free, and drove himself to the rim to make layups that the other team members weren’t able to get free to do. Trey also led the team in 3-point scoring, making half of his 6 attempts that night.
While Calvin was having the night of his life, Purdue was able to keep pace with the Raiders’ new threat and, while they were able to fight hard in the second half to get more points, Purdue walked away with a resounding 96-52 victory. The Raiders had scored 35 points to Purdue’s 45 in that half, a definite improvement over the 17 point showing in the first.
Wright State ended up shooting 30% total on the night and 20% from three, but this figure doesn’t tell the true story of the night. Of the members who played more than ten minutes, only Basile, Calvin, and Holden scored points. Trey Calvin had a career night with 21 points as he was able to nimbly carve into the defense, but everyone else was stymied. Purdue also had double the number of rebounds, and converted 25 second chance points versus the Raiders’ 2.
This squad is still the defending Horizon regular season champion, so how could they be struggling so early? Wright State has their one-two punch in Basile and Holden, and Calvin and Finke have been shown in previous seasons to be stellar playmakers and 3 point shooters at times. The Raiders’ two main problems right now is consistency and a lack of a fifth option.
Finke had himself a night against Lake Erie, dropping 18 points on the squad, but has since been unable to land his three pointers. Finke went 0-7 against Purdue and was unable to provide rebounding help throughout the game. Trey Calvin had his best night here in Purdue, but struggled to send anything into the basket at Marshall. If Holden and Basile get locked down by defenses, it’ll be up to Calvin and Finke to get what’s needed, but so far that hasn’t been able to happen consistently.
It also feels like the Raiders still lack that final person to fill out the roster. Options like Keaton Norris, Andy Neff, CJ Wilbourn, Riley Voss, James Manns, and Alex Huibregtse have been explored on a rotating basis for the spot, but it seems that Nagy hasn’t landed on a choice to fill it. Additionally, no one on that list has stood themselves out from the pack to try to take it, so it could be some more time before a decision is made. Once the spot is settled, it should improve the chemistry on the court.
It’s never easy to take a large loss like this; I had a bad time on Twitter watching the game and trying to find the positives in seeing Basile getting blanked by Edey. The important thing for the Raiders in this is to keep their heads high, Purdue is a powerhouse this season and this is a good learning experience.
The Raiders go to Florida for the Naples Invitational next, starting their series with George Washington on Monday, November 22nd. They’ll play for three consecutive days against opponents based on their wins.