Wright State has been manhandling opponents on the boards this year, putting together an average rebound margin of plus-6.3 per game.
But most of that was amassed before All-Horizon League center Loudon Love was sidelined with an elbow injury, and Indiana State exploited the Raiders’ youth and inexperience in the post.
Out-rebounding their hosts, 49-32, Indiana State skipped out of the Nutter Center with an 84-77 overtime win Saturday afternoon. And while their frontcourt was having their way inside, guards Cooper Neese and Jordan Barnes were torching their defenders from outside.
Neese scored 25 points with five 3-pointers and Barnes had 22 with three. They were averaging a combined 24 points.
The Sycamores (5-4) are shooting a nifty 41.8 percent on 3-pointers.
“It’d be nice if we had three Jaylons where we could cover the perimeter better,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy said, referring to defensive ace Jaylon Hall. “But we have smaller guards, and you have to pick your poison who you put them on. Neese benefited from that because he had smaller guards on him most of the night.”
When their only current post players — redshirt freshman Grant Basile and sophomore James Mann — got into foul trouble in the first half, the Raiders had to go with an all-perimeter lineup.
“We just got whipped inside,” Basile said. “We got beat by 17 on the glass, which, obviously, you can’t have and win a game like that. It starts with us being more physical. We let their ‘bigs’ get way to many offensive rebounds. They just kind of kicked our butts.”
Despite their shortcomings, they Raiders (7-3) almost escaped with a win in regulation after whittling a six-point deficit to two and getting a critical call to go their way.
Down by two, freshman guard Trey Calvin drove and scored with 34 seconds to go, but he was whistled for an offensive foul for slamming into helping defender Tyreke Key. The refs reviewed it and ruled Key was inside the no-charge semi-circle, giving Calvin a bucket and free throw with 34 second left.
He missed the foul shot, and the Sycamores had two good looks on the final possession that rattled out, forcing OT.
The Raiders went 1 of 9 in the extra session. Down three, they fouled with 16.4 seconds left, and sub guard Cam Bacote, who was 11 of 15 on free throws this year, made both.
“This was a game where you see (the effects of) not having a couple big guys,” Nagy said. “People keep forgetting we don’t have Alex, too.”
Grad transfer Aleksandar Dozic, a 6-9 forward, is out for the season with a back injury.
“You can endure one injury like that. But having two to your two biggest kids, we’re tiny. We’re just not a very big team,” Nagy said.
The Raiders’ bench came through, out-scoring the starters, 42-35, but that’s usually not a recipe for success. Bill Wampler, the team’s leading scorer with a 16.1 average, went 1 of 11 from the field.
Calvin had a team-high 15 points, Manns a career-best 13 and Basile 11.
The Raiders had been 2-0 without Love and were coming off their best win over the year in beating Conference-USA favorite Western Kentucky.
“Success is hard to handle. It’s much harder to handle than failure. And I don’t think we dealt with it very well,” Nagy said.
“We thought Indiana State would come in here and lay down. They’re a Missouri Valley Conference team. They’re not going to do that. They physically whipped us last year (in a 69-63 road defeat), and they did the same thing this year.”
He added: “They came in hungry at 4-4, and we weren’t hungry. That’s all it takes.”
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