Scott Nagy is pretty sure his team couldn’t have weathered a prolonged scoring drought earlier in the season like it had against Fairfield on Sunday.
But based on what he saw throughout the Wright State tournament, Nagy was confident he could count on his defense even while his offense was AWOL.
After taking a 53-40 lead with 8:45 to go, the Raiders scored only four points on a basket and two free throws. But they survived a potential game-winning shot and held on for a 57-56 victory Sunday to complete their second straight three-game sweep in the event.
They hounded their three foes into dismal shooting efforts of 29.4, 31.9 and 40.0 percent.
“I don’t remember being involved in three straight games where we’ve played defensively like that — and we had to be good defensively because we were bad offensively,” he said.
The Raiders scored just 20 points in the second half as a comfortable margin kept shrinking. Ferron Flavors cut the deficit to one on a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds to go. The Raiders then couldn’t inbound the ball and were whistled for a five-second violation.
But the Stags couldn’t get an open look, and Flavors missed a hurried 12-footer as time expired.
“Our guys did an unbelievable job to cover that thing … and they ended up taking a very tough shot to even get one off,” Nagy said.
Five things we learned:
Nagy tried to get the Raiders out of their funk. Nothing worked.
“We just got conservative, and I couldn’t get them out of that mode. We were up four with about a minute to go, and it looked like we were running a weave out top,” he said.
“You have to be aggressive. You’ve got to throw the ball and drive it. But we haven’t been in a situation like that, and our guys will learn from it.”
Justin Mitchell scored 15 of his season-high 21 points in the first half, including six in the final 56 seconds.
The senior point guard also had just three turnovers in the last two games after having eight in the tourney opener.
Teammate Grant Benzinger knows how much Mitchell means to the team.
“It takes some pressure off me and makes the offense flow a lot better. When he’s aggressive off the drive and making shots, you’ve got to kind of pick which way you want to get scored on,” he said.
There was no all-tournament team, but these Raiders likely would have been honored if there was one:
Wright State center Louden Love, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds against Fairfield, and Benzinger, who had 41 points in the three games, along with Mitchell.
The other picks would be Jacksonville’s Jace Hogan, who had 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 106-99 triple-overtime win Sunday, and Fairfield’s Tyler Nelson, who had 60 total points.
Jacksonville went 2-1 in the event, Fairfield 1-2 and Gardner-Webb 0-3.
Custer in the house
Ryan Custer, who suffered a spinal injury in an offseason swimming accident and is currently confined to a wheelchair, attended his first home Sunday. He sat next to the bench and slapped hands with his teammates each time they came off the floor.
The Raiders’ next opponent is on a roll. Western Kentucky beat No. 16 Purdue and SMU in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last week. The Hilltoppers’ first game in the event was a 66-58 loss to No. 3 Villanova.
Wright State at Western Kentucky, 5 p.m., 106.5