“The key defensively is to finish the play (with a rebound), and we didn’t,” Nagy said. “We’re a small team, quite frankly, most of the time. We need our guards to rebound like forwards.”
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That’s why the third-year coach was reluctant to dole out much praise afterward — even for Bill Wampler, the 6-foot-6 wing who made a fadeaway 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds left to tie the game. He had 17 points, but his clutch shot was negated by a 3-pointer from Miami at the buzzer.
That late flurry, incidentally, led ESPN’s featured SportsCenter broadcast with Scott Van Pelt that night.
“Bill was aggressive offensively and did hit a big shot there, but we need him to get more than three rebounds,” Nagy said. “You look at all those guys on that (stat) line, and they need more rebounds, for sure.”
The Raiders started 6-11 Parker Ernsthausen, but he played only 18 minutes and didn’t snag a rebound. Their primary lineup was a combination of 6-8 Loudon Love, 6-4 Mark Hughes, 6-3 Skyelar Potter, 6-3 Alan Vest, 5-10 Cole Gentry and Wampler.
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That group helped the Raiders go from an 11-point deficit in the second half to a four-point lead before wilting at the end.
“I think in the second half, on the ball, our guys guarded really well,” Nagy said. “Alan made some great plays for us. Again, when we have to play small, you have go gang-rebound.”
Love’s play of late has been perplexing. The preseason first-team all-league pick had eight points and four rebounds, snapping a streak of four straight double-doubles. And though he was coming off a 10-point, 11-rebound effort in a loss at Indiana State, he missed some point-blank shots even in that game while going 5-for-17 from the field.
“He’s certainly struggling, there isn’t any question about it. I think eventually he’ll figure it out. But right now, he’s in a little bit of a funk,” Nagy said.
Wampler is noticing something this season that he didn’t observe last year while sitting on the bench after transferring from Drake. Foes are playing with more energy against Wright State because of its past success.
“A lot of teams who see us know we’re picked to win the league, and it’s a challenge to them. We’re seeing everyone’s best,” he said. “We’ve just got to lock in better. There’s definitely room for improvement, and that’s going to be exciting when it happens.”
The Raiders (4-5) have lost their last four games against D-I foes, including Penn State and SMU in the Cancun Challenge. They have two more toughies left before league play: road games with 7-1 Kent State on Saturday and 7-1 and 22nd-ranked Mississippi State on Dec. 22.
“This is no cupcake schedule for sure,” Hughes said. “Coach Nagy definitely wanted to test us this year, and we’re going to accept the challenge.
“We know it’s only going to prepare us for our conference because there’s a lot of good teams. Playing a tough non-conference schedule only helps you, and we’ve just got to get ready to go.”
Wright State at Kent State, 4 p.m. ESPN+, 106.5