Raiders stunned in regulation, lose in overtime to Northern Kentucky


FAIRBORN — It’s difficult to come to terms with using the word ‘underachieve’ when speaking about oneself.

That’s what Brandon Noel tried to do after Thursday’s 99-97 overtime loss for Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinals at the Nutter Center against Northern Kentucky.

It was a disappointing ending to what is likely the final game of the season for the Raiders.

Wright State led for most of the game and was ahead by three with just four seconds remaining. NKU was fouled as it attempted a shot from just outside of the paint. After Trey Robinson made the first free throw attempt, his second hit off the front of the rim.

While Tanner Holden appeared to grab the rebound for the Raiders, it was stripped away by Randall Pettus II who corralled the ball, pivoted to his left and made a turnaround jumper from just under the basket with less than a second left to tie the score.

In overtime, the Norse led for most of the period and got up by as much as five, but Wright State still had a chance to extend or win the game on its final possession. After NKU missed a pair of free throws up two with eight seconds left, Holden charged up the floor and handed it off to Alex Huibregtse who tried to connect on a game-winner from the elbow. The shot hit the rim short and time expired shortly after.

“We can’t always control the result,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “I thought they hit a lot of tough shots in the second half and I think you gotta give them credit for that. And then the play there at the end of the regulation, I think he tried to miss on purpose and it just came off hard.

“You don’t turn around and look at those things and wonder if we should’ve done something different. There are a lot of things and that’s not one of them.”

The loss will probably be Wright State’s final game of the 2023-24 season as the team is unlikely to pursue playing in a tournament outside of the NIT if it does not receive an invitation.

With Trey Calvin coming off a season in which he earned first team All-Horizon League honors, a feat which he repeated this year, and Holden transferring back from Ohio State, the Raiders entered this campaign with what turned into a pair of 2,000-plus point scorers on the squad together that both had already starred for the 2022 league champs and NCAA Tournament game winners. The top four scorers from last year’s team all returned and the Raiders were picked to finish in the top-3 in the preseason league poll.

It never quite came together on the floor. While the team went 13-7 in league play, it was only able to manage a fourth place finish. It finishes the year just 18-14 overall.

That’s where the word ‘underachieve’ quickly came to mind by Noel.

“It’s hard to say because you look down on paper and we had it,” he said. “I feel like the worst part about it is there’s no next year. … A lot of these guys aren’t going to be here. There is no running it back.”

Defense had been an issue which was showing signs of improvement until Thursday.

Wright State got off to a 15-2 start and forced Northern Kentucky to call two timeouts in the first 4:30 of the game.

The Raiders maintained the lead until the final minutes of the half when NKU went on a short run to cut the lead down to seven at the break. Nagy said he didn’t feel his team was discouraged with its lead being cut in half.

“I think you have to expect that,” he said. “You can’t just go, ‘Oh, they’re just gonna roll over.’ There’s two teams that have players that played in NCAA Tournaments and they were both out there playing tonight. There’s just a lot of experience out there.”

While the Norse only got six of its first 22 shots to fall, it made better than 68 percent of its attempts combined in the second half and overtime.

Marques Warrick had a game-high 35 points and virtually carried NKU to stay in the game. Wright State never gave up the lead until under two minutes remained in regulation, but was never able to create distance on the scoreboard to provide any moments of comfortability in the minutes leading up to the unfortunate end.

Holden scored 24 points in his finale at the Nutter Center. Calvin fouled out with 20 points during overtime, which forced Nagy to make his first substitution in nearly 14 minutes of action. Huibregtse had a strong first half and also finished with 20 as five Raiders hit double figures in scoring and played more than 36 minutes.

Wright State had just beaten NKU five days ago in the final game of the regular season. It had won nine of its last 12 coming into the Horizon League Tournament.

The Raiders appeared to be heading in the right direction at the right time. Until they weren’t.

“The only thing that will get rid of this pain is time,” Nagy said.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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