Slumping Raiders searching for winning formula

Wright State guard Tanner Holden adds two against Youngstown State during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

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Wright State guard Tanner Holden adds two against Youngstown State during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy saw a team Wednesday that played with skill, athleticism, intensity and enthusiasm. And after competing for 40 minutes, it looked as if it were ready to go another 40.

Unfortunately for him, the squad displaying all of those coveted traits was Akron.

Nagy took on an ambitious schedule this year, believing his seasoned outfit with four returning starters was ready for bigger challenges.

But the Raiders have gone 2-7, matching their worst nine-game start in program history. And in a 66-48 home loss to the Zips, the players looked mentally and physically drained.

“We’ve played such a tough schedule — and we’ve gotten off to such a difficult start — it’s impacted them,” Nagy said.

“It’s hard for me to watch other teams’ players play with such confidence and our guys not.”

Nagy is probably growing tired of being asked about losing Loudon Love, but there’s no doubt the two-time Horizon League Player of the Year has left a void that’s been harder than expected to fill.

The Raiders knew they’d have to pick up the slack in rebounding and defense. But while Love — who is averaging 8.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 12 games for the Texas Legends of the G League — was never a prolific scorer, his absence has been felt on offense, too.

After easily leading the conference in scoring last season at 82.0 points per game, the Raiders are fourth this year with a 72.2 average.

They set a new regular-season low in the six-year Nagy era by scoring 48 against Akron, and it’s their fewest points since a 59-46 home loss to Georgia State on Dec. 12, 2015.

Love drew much attention from opposing defenses, which allowed his teammates more room to roam. This year, the Raiders seem to be getting fewer open looks.

Basile hit 61.7% from the field last season and went 20 of 42 on 3′s. This year, he’s at 56.2% overall and 5 of 36 behind the arc.

Tim Finke has gone from hitting 42.4% from the floor to 31.4, and his 3-point shooting has dropped from 41.3% to 31.9.

Tanner Holden’s shooting clips are holding steady, but he’s in the midst of a two-game slump.

He went 1 of 7 with five points against Cleveland State and 5 of 13 for 12 points against Akron. His average has slipped from 21.9 to 18.9.

“Loudon was the focus, and these guys are the focus now,” Nagy said. “He took the focus off everyone else, and they were kind of freed up.

“Now, teams are looking particularly at Grant and Tanner and seeing where their strengths are, and they’re guarding them better. They have to learn to lean on their teammates.”

Holden, though, insisted his mini-slump has nothing to do with how he’s being defended.

“I wasn’t playing aggressive (against Cleveland State). I kind of took myself out of the game mentally,” he said. “I’ve been working on that a lot with the coaching staff and my parents.”

He said he’s been dealing with some off-court issues, though he didn’t want to be specific.

“I’ve got a lot of outside things going on. Once I get emotionally and mentally  locked in, it’ll come back,” he said.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Tennessee Tech at Wright State, 2 p.m., ESPN+, 103.9

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