It seems as if at every turn, Wright State and Northern Kentucky have faced each other in a game with major Horizon League ramifications. In many ways, it’s truly solidified the rivalry between the two, and it’s must-see television not just for Raider and Norse fans, but for fans of the Horizon League as a whole.
So it’s only appropriate that the finals of the Horizon League Tournament comes down to NKU and WSU again. Having met in the finals in 2019, the Norse triumphed over the Raiders, so clearly Wright State is looking for some revenge and to finally get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.
It was also appropriate that the game down to the closing seconds, with Trey Calvin dropping a jumper with 10 second left that proved to be the game-winner. The Raiders won, 72-71, to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s two programs that I think her over the past six years have been knocking heads,” said Wright State head coach Scott Nagy. “We’re close, and we recruit a lot of the same players, and it’s turning into a better rivalry. But it’s not one of these where we just hate each other. There’s a ton of respect between the programs.”
“After Ques (Marques Warrick), I was never in doubt that we could or would win the game,” said Northern Kentucky head coach Darren Horn. “And after Ques hit the shot, those are situations we work on an awful lot. And give them credit. Calvin made a terrific floater, and at the end we executed. We just didn’t get the shot off that we needed.”
The knock-down, drag-out began as many expected with the Raiders and Norse trading baskets early, which Wright State staying close even while shooting poorly.
But then, foul trouble hit both teams’ superstars, as Grant Basile picked up his second foul, followed soon by Marques Warrick. Trey Calvin, however, put the Raiders on his back, rattling off 10 straight points.
Northern Kentucky, however, one-upped Wright State in guard play with the 1-2 punch of Trevon Faulkner and Bryson Langdon, who combined for 23 first-half points. Meanwhile, the Raiders experienced a power outage, going scoreless for over three minutes before finally breaking the skid at the end of the first half with a Calvin runner. However, by halftime, NKU stretched its advantage to 39-32.
In the second half, Wright State’s shooting woes continues, going more than five minutes without a basket. Meanwhile Warrick, foul troubles subsided, virtually couldn’t miss. Northern Kentucky pushed its lead to 16 points.
And then the Raider shots started to fall.
Wright State went on a 16-2 run to make it close, then took a 68-65 lead on a Tim Finke three-pointer. The Norse wouldn’t be denied, though, and re-took the lead with 20 second left in the game when Warrick drained a three of his own, setting the last-second dramatics that was capped off by Calvin’s shot. With one last try, NKU got the ball in Langdon’s hands, but his final shot came up shot, sealing the game for the Raiders.
Calvin led Wright State with 21 points. Basile, who was named tournament MVP, finished with with 18 points and seven boards, Tanner Holden finished with 19, and Finke scored 10.
For Holden, the moment had special meaning, as he wore a t-shirt during warm-ups and after the win in memory of his late grandfather.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Holden said. “The fans started rushing the court. I was celebrating with them, and then found my mom just balling her eyes out and that kind of hit home with me because my Papaw was at every game, not just for me before her whole family.
“And I talked to coach right whenever he was about to cut the net down,” Holden added. “As hard as it is, they have a better seat than in this arena. He’s looking down me every day. He’s helping me, my family and they always keep their arms around us.”
Warrick led all scorers with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Faulkner scored 14, Langdon chipped in 12, and Adrian Nelson added 10.
Next up for the Raiders is Selection Sunday, where they find out who their NCAA Tournament opponent will be.