Anyone that follows the Wright State Raiders and the Northern Kentucky Norse could tell you that in recent years, since the Horizon’s addition of the Norse back in 2015, the two universities have become intense rivals with bouts to match. If you aren’t familiar, I wrote a piece on the subject back when the two met for the second time in the Horizon League Championship game last year.
This year, the Norse (15-10, 10-4 HL) look to be the conference titans alongside the likes of Youngstown State and Milwaukee, while the Raiders (15-11, 8-7 HL) struggled early in conference to a middling record. While the Raiders have shaped up, winning four of its last five and with the only loss being a valiant triple overtime against the current conference champion, the Norse came in hoping to get a full season sweep of the Raiders after fully squashing them at home.
“In the first game we stood, we’d run down the floor and stand in the corner, just too easy [for NKU’s zone defense] to match up to,” Nagy pinpointed as the reason for the loss in Highland Heights. Northern Kentucky took the first match in December by a score of 78-64, at the time sinking the Raiders to a 0-3 conference start.
Now the hosting school, Wright State kicked off the match on ESPNU, the first of two consecutive nationally televised contests. The Raiders hit the floor running, going up 13-5 on the Norse off an impressive defensive stand underneath, before the Norse shaped up and tied the game with just under eight minutes remaining. The Norse and the Raiders traded the lead back and forth eight times before the Raiders put up some separation, ending the half 34-31 after the Norse’s Trey Robinson floated a last minute three into the basket.
Raider’s Trey Calvin and Brandon Noel, along with NKU’s Marques Warrick, led all scorers at the half with ten. While the Raiders were taking care of the boards and limiting the paint production of the Norse, they allowed NKU, who averages 9.8 steals per game and is nationally ranked 4th in steals, to rob them of possessions six times in the half.
Once the second half began, the two teams continued to push and pull towards the lead, trading runs of seven points or more on multiple occasions, culminating in a 50-50 tie with twelve minutes left. But then the Norse went cold for five minutes of play, making only a single foul shot.
The Raiders didn’t go cold. They threw together a slew of points to go up by as much as 19 before the Norse recovered and put some points down. By the under four minute mark, the Raiders were still up by double digits 73-60. After successfully surviving the full court pressure from NKU, Wright State took a much needed rivalry win and drove the Norse out of the stadium 83-65. The Raiders shot an astonishing 71% in the second half while holding NKU to 34%.
“I’m amazed we only turned it over two times in the second half, that obviously helped us a lot, but mostly pleased with our defense that’s where we made the biggest jump and that’s why we’re playing so much better,” Nagy remarked in the post-game interview.
The Raiders finished with all five of their starters in double digits, including fresh off the bench starter Andrew Welage who pulled in 12 points in his second start. Trey Calvin led the Raiders with 23 points as Brandon Noel followed closely behind with 18 on perfect 7-7 shooting and 4-4 FTs and a dunk for the posters.
For the Norse, Marques Warrick led all scorers with 27, followed closely behind by Sam Vinson with 18. Trey Robinson and Trevon Faulkner, both keys to NKU’s offense on the outside of the key, were held to 4-22 shooting altogether. Chris Brandon’s rebounding efforts were also limited, along with his scoring routes, exactly what was needed for the Raiders.
Wright State gets some time off due to the odd scheduling involved with travel partner games and IUPUI, and will return on February 17th as part of their four game away schedule against Cleveland State on ESPNU, followed by Purdue Fort Wayne two days later. Both teams took the home match against the Raiders and will be looking to keep their place in the standings as Wright State comes into town.
In the meantime, take some time to witness the majesty of Trey Calvin’s second dunk in his collegiate career.
“He jumps almost as high as I did when I played,” Nagy chuckled.