When Wright State was bludgeoned on the boards in a 19-point loss at Murray State on Saturday, coach Scott Nagy didn’t blame his frontcourt or any of his players.
He put the onus on himself.
“What’s always been important to me is rebounding, because I think it’s a ‘heart’ stat. It’s an indication of how hard you’re playing and how tough you are. And we got crushed at Murray — like very few games I’ve ever coached,” Nagy said of the Racers’ 41-26 rebounding advantage.
“I told the kids, ‘It’s my fault.’ We went back to some things I cut out of practice — just because of my concern of getting people hurt. But when you do that, you don’t do things you need to do to get your kids playing hard.
“I explained to them, ‘We should’ve been doing this all along. I’m not punishing you guys because we didn’t rebound. I’m actually trying to get you where you need to be.’ And they really responded.”
After two days of physical practices and a non-stop emphasis on rebounding, the Raiders went after missed shots against Toledo as if the ball was wrapped in $100 bills.
A dominant display on the boards — they finished with a 48-27 edge — propelled them to an 84-74 victory before 3,263 fans Wednesday.
Junior point guard Cole Gentry had a career-high 30 points, Loudon Love had his first double-double of the year with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Bill Wampler chipped in 17 points to lead the way.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Key spurt: The Raiders (2-1) pulled away early in the second half, hiking their lead from five to 14.
Parker Ernsthausen made two free throws to start the surge. After All-MAC guard Jaelan Sanford had a basket wiped out on an offensive foul, teammate Marreon Jackson and Wright State’s Mark Hughes had words and were each assessed a technical foul.
Skyelar Potter swished a 3-pointer, Love scored inside, and Gentry finished the 9-0 run with a nifty reverse layup for a 53-39 lead with 14:40 to go.
The Rockets (2-1) never could get closer than eight after that.
2. Motivated: The Raiders played with high energy from the start, building a 40-32 halftime lead. They won the rebound battle, 23-9, and were proficient on 3-pointers, making 7-of-17. They finished 10-of-27 beyond the arc.
“We kind of got punched in the face at Murray State and had to adjust,” Gentry said. “(Toledo is) a good team, and that’s a good win for us.”
3. Lighting it up: The Rockets’ Luke Knapke, a 6-foot-11 junior from Marion Local, swished three 3-pointers in the first 3:40 and went 6-for-6 on treys.
He battled foul trouble in the second half and finished with 20 points in 27 minutes.
In Toledo’s first two games, Knapke was 1-for-1 on 3-pointers.
4. Calling an audible: The Raiders were forced into major adjustments with sophomore sub Jaylon Hall out for the season with a shoulder injury . The athletic wing could play multiple positions and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer last year (9.1 per game).
But Potter, a freshman guard, popped off the bench and tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he’s just learning how to play the game,” Nagy said. “He does some knuckleheaded stuff like freshmen do. But also, he makes some plays nobody else on our team can make. He can go chase rebounds. He made a couple nice 3s that were big.”
5. Coming up: The Raiders have a home game against North Florida at 3 p.m. Saturday, but it’s officially part in the Cancun Challenge. After traveling to Mexico, they’ll play Penn State in the tourney on Tuesday and either Bradley or SMU on Wednesday.
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