Holden helping Raiders find their groove on offense

Wright State's Tanner Holden drives against a Green Bay player during a game at the Nutter Center on Jan. 1, 2022. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

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Wright State's Tanner Holden drives against a Green Bay player during a game at the Nutter Center on Jan. 1, 2022. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

FAIRBORN — Tanner Holden has been leading Wright State in scoring for most of the season, but when he played against IUPUI last Thursday, he was content to let others carry the offensive load.

The junior wing’s team-first attitude and discipline to not force shots are rare for a player of his caliber. The word that best describes him is efficient.

He went 4 of 7 from the field for eight points against the Jaguars. Two days later, with the defense backing off and his confidence flowing, he torched UIC for 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting — the most points by a Raider since Mark Alstork tallied 39 against Toledo on Nov. 19, 2016.

“I had no idea he had that many points,” Nagy said. “He got 10 points from the free-throw line (on 11 attempts), and that always helps.

“He was having a little hyper-extended knee issue in between games. He couldn’t really straighten his leg out on Friday. He limped gingerly in the shoot-around (before the game). I had some concern. But I should’ve known better.”

Though he’s a threat from 3-point land — he’s 8 of 21 (38.1%) — all of his points came inside the arc in the 97-81 win over the Flames.

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“He missed his first two shots, and I thought, ‘He just seems tight right now.’ Then, I don’t know, he gets in those modes where it’s so easy for him,” Nagy said.

“It just looks like he’s at a different level than everybody else. Athletically, he gets by guys and finishes so well.”

The Wheelersburg, Ohio, product is second in the Horizon League in scoring with a 20.6 average. Detroit’s Antoine Davis not only leads the league at 24.4 per game, but he’s also the top scorer in the nation.

Their styles, though, couldn’t be more different.

While the 6-foot-6 Holden is third in the HL in field-goal percentage at 50.2%, the 6-1 Davis, the coach’s son, is way down the list at 42.1%.

The Titans guard also is a high-volume shooter — some might even say he’s trigger happy — and leads the country with 19.8 shots per game.

That would never work for the Raiders. Holden — who is second in the nation with 144 free-throw attempts and is shooting 82.6% — leads the team with a modest 13.8 shots per game, while Grant Basile averages 13.3, Trey Calvin 11.5 and Tim Finke 8.8.

That share-the-ball culture is a prime reason why the Raiders have recovered from their early-season woes to win nine of their last 10 games.

They’ve had 20, 16 and 19 assists in their last three outings. Before that, they topped 15 assists only once.

“I grabbed Trey, Tim and Tanner after the IUPUI game and just told them how proud I was of them. When it’s a 30-point game, it’s easy for guys to get hungry and think, ‘Well, it’s a chance for me to get some points here’ instead of playing good team basketball. I thought all three of those guys were tremendous in that respect,” Nagy said.

The Raiders scored 52 points in the first half at UIC, which is more than they had in 40 minutes against Akron in a 66-48 home loss Dec. 15 and equaled their entire output against Purdue in 96-52 rout Nov. 16.

Their 97 points are the most by one team in a conference game this season, and they’re averaging 81.2 points in their last 10 games. Last season, they averaged 82.0.

“We’re just settling into a pretty good rhythm offensively,” Nagy said. “Early in the year, guys were really concerned about their scoring. I don’t think they are anymore. And it’s amazing, now that they’re not, how much better we are offensively.”

INJURY UPDATE: Senior forward Riley Voss, who has played seven games with one start, has had an assortment of ailments. The Cornell transfer currently is dealing with a foot issue, and Nagy doesn’t expect him back until February.

Sophomore guard Alex Huibregtse has a back injury and is likely out for the season.

“We haven’t been a great 3-point shooting team, but we’ve missed those two guys. They’re good shooters, and that’s impacted us,” Nay said.

WAITING HIS TURN: Brandon Noel, a 6-8 forward from Chillicothe High School, is taking a second straight redshirt year this season. Because of the NCAA’s COVID-19 rules, he’ll have four years of eligibility starting next season.

“He was coming off a knee injury, but he’s practicing very well now,” Nagy said. “He’s making some really good jumps for us. We’re excited about what we see from him.”

The Raiders are carrying 12 scholarship players, one short of the limit.

Nagy decided to hold one full ride for the 2022 class (high school seniors) to be able to bring in two recruits, and they landed guards Trey Carter of Westerville South and Logan Woods of Fairfield in the early-signing period.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Wright State at Northern Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980

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