The defense began to turn around in Wednesday’s 66-48 loss to Akron. That effort didn’t carry over to start Saturday’s game, but in the second half, and especially the final nine minutes, Nagy liked what he saw against Tech (3-9).
“It’s hard to be great offensively if you’re not great defensively,” he said. “So I feel like we’re getting the ship turned around. It’s like a big ocean liner. You don’t just turn it around like you do a speedboat. I think our mindset is changing and we’re starting to understand that the defense is the most important thing.”
The Raiders trailed 51-47 when their defense took over. Calvin started it with a 3-pointer and Holden hit a jumper in the lane for a 52-51 lead with 8:48 left. The lead grew to 57-51 before Tech scored again and hit a high of 15 with 3:31 left.
“More energy, and it felt like we had the most fun we had all year,” Calvin said. “And it felt good to come out with the win and play team basketball.”
Calvin has heard Nagy’s pleas for his team to get serious about defense. As one of the team’s veterans, he wants to be a leader on that end of the floor.
“Coach Nagy’s been on us the whole year about defense, and we haven’t really been doing our job,” he said. “I feel like today was probably one of our best defensive games.”
As Nagy and just about any basketball coach will say, great defense creates great offense. That was true for Holden in the second half. He’s averaging 19 points, but he was coming off 12 against Akron and five against Cleveland State, making only a combined 6 of 20 shots.
“He was just in attack mode,” Calvin said. “I felt like last couple games he’s been less aggressive, so today he was attacking more, and he got to the foul line a lot.”
Holden attacked at the right times within the flow of the offense, and it paid off.
“I didn’t want to force anything because I’ve been in kind of a slump,” he said. “And I’ve tried to shoot myself out of it and you can never do that.”
The Raiders also didn’t let a bad start get them down. Tech jumped out to a 17-7 lead. The Raiders responded with an 11-0 run for a brief lead and trailed 33-32 at halftime. They rode the roller coaster of five ties and seven lead changes until their game-closing run.
“You see the score and you can go, ‘Oh man, here we go again,’” Holden said. “But we stuck together through all the ups and downs and just kept persevering. We just never stopped fighting.”
Wright State at NC State, 7 p.m., ACC Network Extra, 103.9