Wright State’s Loudon Love defends Miami’s Precious Ayah during Saturday’s game at Millett Hall. Joseph Craven/WSU ATHLETICS

Archdeacon: A lot less Love a good thing for Wright State

After Wright State had fended off Miami, 88-81, Saturday afternoon at Millett Hall, the Raiders big man stood outside the visitors dressing room and talked about the latter:

His new ‘do.

The sides of his head are shaved and up top, the hair is braided and pulled into a little top knot. It ends up looking a little bit like a tilted pineapple.

“It was just something different, something random,” the 6-foot-8 redshirt junior was explaining. “It’s just a …”

He stopped in mid-sentence as Raiders no-nonsense head coach Scott Nagy walked over from his post-game radio comments and stood next to him.

“Oooh…aaaah…I’m not answering any more with him right here,” a stammering, half-smiling Love said as he backed away toward the dressing quarters.

It was the first-time all afternoon that he had been flustered and didn’t know what to do.

Once Love was out of earshot, Nagy was asked what he thought of his big man’s haircut.

“When you get 27 and 16 you can wear your hair however you want,” he laughed.

Love’s 27 points were a career-high. His 16 rebounds were three off his all-time best.

“He was clearly a dominant player tonight,” Nagy said. “He owned the middle. That’s what he needs to do for us and he needs to do it more consistently.”

This was the RedHawks season opener and they had no answer for Love, who made 12 of 17 field goal attempts and had a whopping nine offensive rebounds.

Part of Miami’s problem was that its own bulky inside presence – 6-foot-8, 273-pound Bam Bowman — hurt his right knee midway through the first half and didn’t play again before intermission.

He returned for just nine minutes in the second half, but was hobbled and not effective and he finished the game with four points, all scored in the first two minutes or so. His place was taken by 6-foot-6 Precious Ayah, who struggled to contain Love.

“Obviously losing Bam hurt us, but to Love’s credit, he’s worked on his body and transformed himself into a really good player,” said Miami coach Jack Owens. “Instead of just backing a man down, he’s using angles and being aggressive. This is the best he’s ever been.”

After the game Love had talked about his new body, too.

This is his fourth year at Wright State – he redshirted as a freshman – and he looks nothing like the massive kid who came here from Geneva High School in Illinois.

“I weighed 320 pounds when I first got here,” he admitted. “I ended last season at 280 and Thursday I weighed in at 254.

“Actually, I’m a little bit prideful that I’ve been able to do that.”

His first season on the court for the Raiders, Love was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year. Last year he won all league first-team honors, but he had shot and rebounded better his first year and had more steals, assists and blocked shots then, too.

“I think freshman year I caught some guys by surprise,” Love said. “Last year I didn’t feel as good about the way I played. And I think it had to do a little bit with the weight.”

Nagy said he addressed the subject just once with Love after the season:

“I told him we were going to play faster this year and he needed to be in better shape. He needed less body fat. And he did all that. I didn’t have to get after him about it at all.

“The hardest guy on Loudon is Loudon. The second hardest is me. I’m hard on him because I expect him to get these numbers every night. He’s capable of it if he plays with that kind of motor he did tonight.”

The stat that stands out even more than Love’s points and rebounds Saturday was the 31-plus minutes he played, more than anyone on the team but point guard Cole Gentry.

In seasons past, Love would have struggled running that much.

“I feel great,” Love said afterward. “Honestly, I don’t feel that tired from going up and down (the court) all night. My overall pace was better and I could take shorter rests on the bench than before. It keeps me in a groove more.”

He said much of the credit for his resulted body goes to WSU athletics trainer Jason Franklin and Cole Pittsford, the Raiders director of sports performance. He said they guided him through his workouts and diet, as well as how to take care of his body and his mental approach.

And this season when Love does need a rest, Nagy can go down his deep bench and bring in 6-foot-8 freshman redshirt Grant Basile, who showed promise again Saturday when he scored five points in seven minutes of play — just as he had in the season opening win against Central State four days earlier.

“He’s actually a good player,” Nagy said. “It’s not like we’re bringing some stiff in behind Loudon. Grant is a good and he’s going to keep getting better. “

Wright State had other standouts Saturday, as well.

Senior forward Bill Wampler scored 17 points and Jordan Ash, a 6-foot-2 grad transfer from Northwestern – where he played in 90 games and was a team captain last season – became a defensive stopper against Miami’s Nike Sibande, who finished with 24 points – 11 in the first five minutes or so of the game – but scored little once Ash was switched on him.

“The guy nobody will talk about is Jordan, but he did exactly what we needed him to do.” Nagy said. “When Sibande got going we put Jordan on him and he shut him down. Jordan was really good.”

But no Raider was better than Love.

He had been lethargic against Central Stare in the opener and finished with nine points. But Saturday he was on the attack from the start.

“So you’re skin and bones but still can bang around inside?” he was teasingly asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t know about skin and bones, but there’s definitely a lot less fat on me,” he smiled.,

And just as he’s molded his body, he’s had to change what he wears.

“Yeah, they had to hem up some of my jerseys this year,” he laughed. “And in street clothes, I’m down to XLs.”

He said his old clothes have been commandeered by his mom and sister.

“They take all my old shirts and old gear,” he said. “They love it and that’s fine with me. I’m not going to be wearing it anymore.”

Like Nagy said, when you’re a guy who goes for 27 and 16 you can look how you want.

And Loudon Love wants to look as good as he can.

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