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Newcomers are the difference for Raiders

Over the past few years, the world of the Wright State Raiders has been on a slow descent.  From their high point of 23 victories and a Horizon League Championship in 2006-07, the Raiders have seen the nucleus of that championship and the wins slowly start going away.  After DaShaun Wood and the championship senior class departed, the Raiders went from 23 to 21, to 20 and 20 to 19 – innocuous enough, but it’s a drop all the same.  They’ve lost all-timers like Vaughn Duggins and Todd Brown, as well as strong players such as Troy Tabler, Cory Cooperwood, Cooper Land, Ronnie Brown and of course, N’Gai Evans.

In that time, the Raiders haven’t lost much because the core nucleus is still there.  Coming into this season though, it was all gone. No player remains from the championship nucleus.  What happened to predictions? They dropped off the map. The Raiders were picked for eighth place.

But the Raiders haven’t gone away – a disappointing 5-7 non-conference record is partly due to a tough non-conference schedule – and instead are just one half game out of first place.

Why are the Raiders sticking around?  Obviously the coaching is there – Billy Donlon is a worthy successor to Brad Brownell – but one only needs to look at the team’s statistics to see what’s different and may make the team more dangerous than previously thought.

Three players – Julius Mays, Reggie Arcenaux and John Balwigaire – are the difference for the Raiders in the absence of Duggins and Evans.

Mays leads the Raiders in scoring at 13.9 points per game and 2.9 assists per game.  It wasn’t until the holidays, however, when Mays really turned up the juice.

Despite scoring 25 against Charlotte, 21 against Florida and 19 against Youngstown State, Mays had been largely ineffective throughout the first part of the Raiders’ season.  Those three games were the exception far more than they were the rule, as the junior transfer had seven of his first eleven games under the double-digit mark in scoring.

Starting with December 20th against Idaho, Mays has scored at least 12 points in every single game – that 12 points, against Central Michigan, is the only time since Christmas that Mays has scored under 21.  In short, Mays has become a dynamite scorer, something the Raiders have lacked since DaShaun Wood. And that Idaho game that kicked off this scoring spree? Perhaps his last bucket in that match-up was the greatest bucket of all:

Reggie Arceneaux is a little spark plug, the kind of speedy guard that the Raiders needed to replace N’Gai Evans in the starting lineup.  In the time that Mays has become a bona fide scoring star, Arcenaux has seen his own numbers rise, putting out three or more assists in six of the last seven games.

Along with John Balwigaire, who adds scoring and solid defense to the equation, the newcomers to Billy Donlon’s program have turned the corner and negated the problem of replacing Wright State all-time heavyweights.

Let’s see if they’ll be the first team to win at Milwaukee since February of 1998.

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