Despite 0-3 start, Wright State still has designs on making push for league title

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy isn’t ready to concede his team’s hopes of winning the Horizon League title are over — despite needing to dig out of a hole that’s deep enough to rescue stranded miners.

The Raiders are 7-7 overall and 0-3 in the league going into Monday afternoon’s game at IUPUI. No team has started 0-2 and won the league, much less having lost its first three games. But Nagy isn’t giving up on the title chase.

“Somebody said after the Northern Kentucky game (Thursday), ‘Oh well, you’ve just got to finish in the top four,’” he said, meaning place high enough to earn a first-round bye in the league tourney. “I’ve got no interest in finishing in the top four.

“It’s not the way I think, and I don’t want anybody around me thinking that way. Quite frankly, that’s how you end up settling.”

The Raiders’ last 0-3 start was in 1999-2000 under Ed Schilling. They finished 6-8.

Their only 0-4 start came in 1995-96, their second year in the league and the last season under famed coach Ralph Underhill. They finished 8-8.

But they can look to Butler’s run in 1999-2000 for motivation. The Bulldogs began 1-2 but won the eight-team league with a 12-2 mark and captured the league tourney.

Overcoming an 0-3 start would have been more daunting if the Horizon League hadn’t gone to such a beefy schedule. But after alternating between 14 and 16 games for much of its history, the HL went to 18 in 2007-08 and 20 in 2020-21.

That gives the Raiders 17 more games to make up ground.

“Seventeen is a lot,” Nagy said. “But it all starts with the next possession, the next practice.

“I’ve just got to be able to draw closer to some of my guys — get to know them better, find out even more about what makes them tick and just help them by being a better coach for them.”

Nagy has been flummoxed by his players’ erratic performances — and no one has been immune.

Trey Calvin, a preseason second-team all-league pick, had 37 points in the opener and has scored at least 27 three other times. But he’s also had six and seven points in two Raider losses.

Amari Davis, another second-team all-league selection, averaged 15.8 points in the first five games and 9.1 in the last nine.

The two young frontcourt players, Brandon Noel and A.J. Braun, and two top subs, Alex Huibregtse and Andrew Welage, have hit rough patches, too.

“We’ve been used to, for the most part, things flowing pretty simply. And they’re not right now. Really, this is, as a coaching staff, where we earn our money — not when things are going well,” Nagy said.

“When they’re not going well, I can tend to get overly emotional and too negative. And that certainly doesn’t help guys when they’re struggling. That’s probably where I have to do a better job.”

If the Raiders are going to climb back into contention, they probably need to start at IUPUI.

They haven’t lost to the Jaguars in five years and have eight straight wins by an average of 20.9 points.

Asked about the keys to victory, Nagy said: “It’s less about strategy and more about the heart. That’s really what we want to get to — my heart, too.

“Lineups and strategies are important, but they don’t mean anything if we don’t have the guys’ hearts.”


Wright State at IUPUI, 2 p.m., ESPN+,980

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