Familiar foe awaits Wright State’s Nagy in Horizon League opener

Wright State University head men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy signals to his team from the sideline during their game against Miami University Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Nutter Center at Wright State University in Fairborn. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Wright State University head men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy signals to his team from the sideline during their game against Miami University Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Nutter Center at Wright State University in Fairborn. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Scott Nagy’s first Horizon League game as Wright State’s coach won’t be too unfamiliar. Wright State opens conference play on Thursday night on the road against Oakland, an opponent Nagy knows well.

Nagy coached at South Dakota State for 21 seasons before coming to Wright State earlier this year. Oakland and South Dakota State were both members of the Summit League from 2007 to 2013 and played twice each year. The Golden Grizzlies, led by longtime head coach Greg Kampe, amassed an 11-3 record against Nagy’s Jackrabbits during those seasons.

“I know Greg and his program and the kind of teams he has,” Nagy said. “They were always tough, and it certainly seems they’ve fit into this conference well.”

RELATED: Wright State at Oakland preview

The Grizzlies put together a league-best 10-3 record in nonconference play and are coming off of a seven-point win over Georgia. Oakland averages 80.5 points per game and has played well on defense, too. Oakland allows the fewest points (67.9) per game of any conference team, and its opponents have shot 39 percent from the field.

Martez Walker leads the team with an average of 17.6 points per game. Walker, a junior guard, scored a career-high 30 points against Georgia. Three other players average over eight points per game.

“They’re very good offensively and have several good offensive players,” Nagy said. “There’s not one guy you can key on, which makes it more difficult for your defense. I think size-wise we match up to them pretty good. Depth-wise, they kind of have us there.”

Oakland has relied on a deep bench to fule its defense. All but one of the Grizzlies’ reserve players average at least 10 minutes per game and have seen the court in every game. Jaevin Cumberland, a Wilmington graduate, is one of those bench players.

Nagy said he suspects the Grizzlies’ starters will get more playing time now that conference play is underway, but he said their depth makes it harder to plan.

“That makes it tough to play them early (in league play) without knowing for sure if they’ll play their starters more or not,” Nagy said. “Having that kind of depth helps on defense, and they’ve played excellent on defense. They do have more depth than us, but just about everybody we’ve played has more depth, and we’ve faired pretty well.”

Wright State (9-4) enters the game on a three-game winning streak. The Raiders have had only one game at the Nutter Center this month, but Nagy said the time on the road has prepared the team for long trips in conference play.

“All road games are tough, regardless of who you’re playing,” Nagy said. “Once you get into league play — especially since we know each other so well and spend so much time watching film — that execution is really important.

“Emotional stability is important — you’ve got to be under control. Whether you win or lose on the road, you have to be able to bounce back and play in two days.”

After Thursday’s game, Wright State will play at Detroit on Saturday and then return home to play Cleveland State on Jan. 5.

The Raiders beat Oakland by four points in the Horizon League tournament last season but had lost the previous four games in the series, including twice in regular season last year.

THURSDAY’S GAME

Wright State at Oakland, 7 p.m., 106.5