Wright State’s Loudon Love is still nursing a sprained left ankle he suffered in a game 10 days ago. Coach Scott Nagy hopes his star center is back to face visiting UIC in a Horizon League opener Friday night, but he doesn’t sound overly optimistic.
“It’ll probably be a game-time decision. He didn’t practice today, though,” Nagy said Thursday afternoon. “He worked out (Wednesday) but was very, very sore afterward. Our trainer said he should sit today out.”
The Raiders put up a good fight in a
67-63 loss at Mississippi State on Dec. 22
, their fifth setback this year by seven points or fewer. Parker Ernsthausen, a 6-foot-11 senior, started in place of Love and had 11 points, making 3-of-4 three-pointers. He's shooting a team-best 46.4 percent on treys (13-of-28).
»UIC at Wright State: What to know about Friday’s Horizon League opener
Though playing without a preseason first-team all-league pick isn’t something the Raiders would want to try long-term, it worked to their advantage against the 17th-ranked Bulldogs.
Coach Ben Howland said afterward: “They played completely different without him. We prepared to double him in the post and everything was about him. But they spread the floor, and, give them a lot of credit, they’re a good veteran team and shot the 3-ball well.
“When you beat a good team like they are and they keep on winning, it will definitely help us down the road.”
Despite a 6-7 record, the Raiders go into conference play as the league's top team, according to the NCAA Evaluation Tool. The NCAA came up with the NET ratings this year because it wanted to devise its own computer formula for ranking teams to replace the RPI.
Going into Thursday’s games, Wright State was 140th nationally, Northern Kentucky 143rd, IUPUI 166th, Green Bay 172nd, UIC 183rd, Cleveland State 187th, Detroit 227th, Oakland 277th, Milwaukee 281st and Youngstown State 311th.
Helping the Raiders surge to the top is a meaty non-conference schedule that ranks 61st nationally. Cleveland State (57th), Detroit (72nd) and Green Bay (75th) are the only other league teams with top-100 schedules.
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That helps to explain Wright State’s sub-.500 non-league record, which has happened only three other times in the last 15 years: 6-7 in 2015-16, 5-6 in 2005-06 and 4-7 in 2003-04.
“We don’t have great size. We’re just not very big, and we don’t rebound the ball well. Sometimes that just has to do with the size of your team,” Nagy said. “And let’s face it, we’re not an overly athletic team. We’re just not. It will be really evident when we play (UIC). It was evident when we played Kent State and people like that.
“But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t feel good going into this (conference season), particularly with the way we played against Mississippi State. We need to step into this thing with confidence.”
The Raiders will be getting some coveted national exposure on ESPN2 as they shoot for their sixth straight win over UIC.
They have at least three more games on the network: at Northern Kentucky on Jan. 11 on ESPN2, at UIC on Feb. 1 on ESPNU and Northern Kentucky at home on Feb. 15 on ESPNU.
The conference tourney semifinals are on ESPNU and the finals on ESPN.
“Hopefully, we’ll play well and represent the university well,” Nagy said.
Reaching out: The Raiders will be giving back to the community by doing a shoe distribution Saturday morning at Fairborn Methodist Church in a partnership with Samaritan's Feet.
Nagy will be shoeless for Friday’s game to raise awareness for the international ministry. The school will be accepting donations of new shoes at Gates 3 and 9 at the Nutter Center.
UIC at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN2, 106.5