The 2022 Champions of the Horizon League played for the very first time in the public eye on November 9th. As most of the Horizon League scheduled Monday or Tuesday games, or even exhibitions beforehand to tease the potential of the squads, the Wright State Raiders scheduled an Atlantic 10 powerhouse in the Davidson Wildcats to play on the third day of the NCAA season. Wright State even managed to get them to come to the Nutter Center.
What followed was an absolute rollercoaster.
After the gates opened and the commemorative giveaway of the Raiders’ first ever D1 NCAA win was handed out, Wright State saluted their longtime announcer, Gordie Howe, who passed away this year. Following that was the banner reveal, celebrating the First Four win. Then came the game itself.
Wright State and Davidson went back and forth with layups early in the first, starting out at 8-8. Trey Calvin scored all but one of the points for the Raiders as the Wildcats held a balanced push, but it was all dribble penetration through those first few minutes. WSU went in with fervor, tackling hard fought open lanes and making key layups, or passing to someone else who could. After some more play, Wright State then went on a 9-0 tear led by stellar three point shooting to put Davidson into a double digit deficit at 25-15, forcing a Davidson timeout.
Rebounding played a critical role in keeping the Wildcats at bay. Going into the under eight mark, the Raiders held a +6 margin, and were able to find second chances under the rim while foiling Davidson’s attempts to steal. By the four minute mark, the Raiders had extended their lead to its best of night at 21, smothering the Wildcats 46-25. However, foul trouble would come to haunt Wright State in the final few minutes, and Davidson used its time on the stripe to bring the score closer to their favor.
At halftime, Wright State held the lead with 52-36, with Amari Davis pushing through a couple points to make the 16 point lead before time expired. Trey Calvin led all scorers on the floor by a country mile with 17 points and 3 assists, followed by Davis and Finke at 8. For the Wildcats, bench member Desmond Watson led the pack with 8 points, followed by Foster Loyer with 7 and a triplet of rebounds and assists.
Out of the half, the Raiders started to play slower and more methodical. A lot more time was spent trying to find weaknesses in the defense of the Wildcats, which did not bear fruit. Instead, Davidson capitalized on the squad’s reluctance to drive their way to the rim as they had in the first half, forcing the Raiders to take shots from outside. As shot after shot failed to fall, Davidson started to claw their way back into the game and in four minutes, they were within ten of the Raiders.
The strategy for the Wildcats coming out the half was to turn focus on their star: Foster Loyer. After a relatively quiet first half, he turned up the heat and started mixing the Raiders up. His matchup with Trey Calvin tested the Raider at every turn, and whenever he got an open look he would make the team pay with absolute daggers. Whenever focus got too heavy on Loyer, he would pass it off to a teammate to drive or take a pot shot from behind the arc. The rest of the team helped him with screens and it proved to be an effective attack as the team shot 60% from the floor in the second half.
“We’re not gonna play a better shooter than [Loyer],” Nagy would comment during post-game interview.
With four minutes left in the second half, Davidson got within a possession of the Raiders with the score at 77-75. After some incredible defense from both sides, the game’s clock ran to zero on a 79-79 tie. The first game of the season would be an overtime matchup.
Davidson wasted no time continuing the stratagem from earlier to amazing success. After going up 89-82 on the Raiders, Calvin and Noel would draw the game back to a tie on a 7-0 run up to the final few seconds of the first overtime. With the score at 89-89, the clock reset for the second time and play began again.
The second overtime was all Loyer. he put up 11 points on perfect 4-4 shooting to drown the Raiders out. While Wright state would make an amazing last stand, pushing through and persevering through the final seconds, they weren’t able to get their three point shots to fall and the game ended 102-97 in favor of the Wildcats.
Calvin finished with 37 points, 4 assists, and a single turnover in 47 minutes of play, a career night for the senior. Amari Davis finished with a double-double, notching 17 points and 13 rebounds. AJ Braun and Tim Finke would also reach double digits, but were a couple rebounds shy of the double-double. The Raiders as a whole were 44% from the floor and 26% from three, making eight of their thirty attempts.
For the Wildcats, Loyer finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, very nearly a triple-double and an absolutely monster performance. Fellow starters Sam Mennenga, Reed Bailey, and Connor Kochera all notched 15+ points in the win.
“Everything was there in terms of what we want to see from our kids,” Coach Nagy told the press. “But we were leaning hard on Trey Calvin… We needed to see more [time] out of the bench, trust the bench a little more.”
Wright State travels to play Louisville on Saturday at 1 pm. Louisville, who took a hard loss this Wednesday after falling to newly transitioned Bellarmine 67-66, will be looking to make a statement win of their own at home. You can find the game being streamed on ACC NEXT and ESPN+.