Loudon Love’s biggest critic may be coach Scott Nagy.
Love also probably has no bigger fan.
The sophomore center showed why he’s a first-team All-Horizon League pick this season with a 13-point, nine-rebound effort in Wright State’s 71-56 win over IUPUI in the conference quarterfinals before 4,936 fans Tuesday.
He reached double figures for the 18th straight game as the top-seeded Raiders (20-12) built leads of 19 points in the first half and 31 after halftime. They’ll play Green Bay (17-15) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Monday at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena.
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“He knows I’m always after him, never think he’s doing enough,” Nagy said. “It’s hard because — and I’ve talked to him about this a lot — I don’t want to make him feel like a disappointment. But there’s always more I feel like he could be doing. I’m always pushing him toward that.”
Love, who averages 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, may never be a prolific scorer because he attracts so much attention from defenses. And those double-teams are sometimes troublesome for the 6-foot-9, 280-pound bruiser, who had five turnovers against the Jaguars (16-16) and has a team-high 75 this season.
But his presence inside also means his teammates usually are able to thrive. Junior wing Bill Wampler had a game-high 18 points, going 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.
“A guy like Bill gets a lot of shots because teams have to worry so much about Loudon. He’s a good guy to play with if you’re a guard who can shoot,” Nagy said.
IUPUI coach Jason Gardner knew he was facing a quandary with Love after having lost twice to the Raiders this season.
“He’s a very good passer. He knows how to find cutters. He knows how to find guys at the 3-point line,” Gardner said. “They do a very good job spacing the court. They usually have four very good shooters out there. It’s hard to help. You’re in scramble mode the majority of the game. He causes a lot of problems on the blocks.”
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Defense rules: IUPUI’s Camron Justice, a second-team all-league pick, was held to eight points (11 below his average) and went 1 of 8 from the field. He was hounded by Mark Hughes, who made the league’s all-defensive team along with fellow senior Parker Ernsthausen.
“Mark, the last few games, has just been at another level. He made life very difficult for Justice,” Nagy said. “And Parker is just like a catcher on the baseball field. He’s the one who talks. He’s the one who sees everything. He’s got to lead the country in taking charges. I’ve never coached a guy who takes as many charges as Parker.
“Mark and Parker are as good a duo defensively as I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached for a long time.”
Potterville: Freshman sub Skyelar Potter had a breakout performance with 12 points — two more than he had in the last five games combined.
He had reached double figures in only three of the previous 19 outings after scoring 10 or more in six of the first 12 outings.
Free-throw aces: Junior Cole Gentry is shooting 90.6 percent on foul shots, but Malachi Smith, who had 11 points, is connecting at an impressive clip, too.
After starting the season 10 of 16, the freshman has gone 35 of 39 in the last 15 games, including a 5-of-7 effort Tuesday. He’s shooting 81.8 percent overall.
Home sweet home: The Raiders improved to 15-2 at the Nutter Center and set a record for home wins in the Division I era (since 1987). They also notched their fourth-straight 20-win season.
Coming up: Green Bay beat UIC, 82-77, at home to advance to the semis. The Phoenix and Raiders split their two games this season.
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