Wright State basketball: Defense lagging lately but still a strong suit for Raiders

Wright State head coach Scott Nagy watches his team play Cleveland State during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 16, 2021. Wright State won 85-49. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
Caption
Wright State head coach Scott Nagy watches his team play Cleveland State during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 16, 2021. Wright State won 85-49. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

FAIRBORN — Nothing infuriates Wright State coach Scott Nagy more than poor defensive sequences, and his players saw his testy side often during the last four games — despite winning three of them.

In the Raiders’ first 19 outings, they surrendered 80 or more points just twice, losing 80-64 to Marshall and 81-71 to Oakland.

But they gave 81 and 82 in a pair of double-digit home wins against Milwaukee and 81 in a loss at Northern Kentucky last weekend.

They managed to stop the hemorrhaging in a 77-71 win over NKU in the regular-season finale, but even that effort left Nagy a little perturbed.

“Defensively, we’re not playing very well. Our last four games have all been over one point per possession,” he said, referring to the team’s defensive efficiency rate. “We don’t like that. Our focus is on getting the defense back to where we had it.”

ExploreLove named HL Player of the Year again

Where they had it was in a realm where no other Nagy team had been before.

Foes are hitting just 40% of their field goals this season, which is on pace to be the program’s best mark since the 2008-09 bunch allowed just 38.3% shooting.

Before Milwaukee and NKU combined to connect at a 46.9% clip, the Raiders’ defensive field-goal percentage was 38.6. They’re still ranked 26th in the county even with the late lapse.

That’s why senior center Loudon Love and sophomore wing Tim Finke made the Horizon League all-defensive team this week. And Nagy wouldn’t have been surprised if the Raiders had claimed three of the five spots.

“I think those two guys deserve it. I thought Grant could have been on it because he led the league in blocked shots,” Nagy said.

Wright State guard Tim Finke pulls down a defensive rebound in front of Miami forward Josh Brewer during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Wright State guard Tim Finke pulls down a defensive rebound in front of Miami forward Josh Brewer during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

Sophomore forward Grant Basile has 37 blocks, while Love has the league’s next-best total with 30.

“They want to spread that stuff around,” said Nagy, whose team plays in the Horizon League tournament Tuesday, “but I was pleased to see two guys on it for sure.”

Finke, in his first season with the Raiders after transferring from Grand Canyon, has made an immediate impact. He’s averaging 10 points and 6.9 rebounds and is leading the team in 3′s with 40 while shooting a nifty 41.2% from the arc.

ExploreRaiders seeded 2nd in HL tourney

Asked to describe Finke as a defender, Nagy said: “Physical. Good lateral movement. And he’s tough. We always say he’s like a machine. He plays hard. He’s also a good rebounder.

“Of all the (regular-season) stats, the two things I was amazed about the most were Loudon being 13th in the league in free-throw percentage for guys shooting 2½ per game. And the other one was, out of the top 11 rebounders in the league, we had four of them.”

Bowling Green's Cam Young, right, and Jacob Washington, left,  battle for a rebound against Wright State's Tim Finke (24) and Grant Basile (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Bowling Green, Ohio.  (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune via AP)
Caption
Bowling Green's Cam Young, right, and Jacob Washington, left, battle for a rebound against Wright State's Tim Finke (24) and Grant Basile (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Bowling Green, Ohio. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune via AP)

Credit: J.D.POOLEY

Credit: J.D.POOLEY

Love has improved significantly at the foul line, shooting a career-best 65.7% after hitting 56.4, 62.5 and 54.1 his first three years.

He’s also second in the league in rebounding at 10.3 per game, while Tanner Holden is eighth (7.2), Finke ninth and Basile 11th (6.7).

“Tim was kind of the unnoticed guy out there with all those people on the floor, but he gets a lot done for us,” Nagy said.

The Raiders are flourishing offensively, averaging 81.5 points and shooting 48.3% from the field — their best clips since the 1992-93 team put up 89.1 points per game while shooting 51.6%.

Nagy didn’t see that coming. But with rim protectors inside and athletes on the perimeter, he had high hopes for the defense.

“We thought this could be one of our better defensive teams, and it’s proven to be over the year,” he said.

The Raiders are allowing a league-low 66.3 points per game.

“We want to get back to being better going into the tournament,” he said. “But we’re really happy how the guys have played defensively this year.

“We always tell them, ‘The guys that play the best defensively are the ones who win the league.’”

TUESDAY’S GAME

HORIZON LEAGUE QUARTERFINALS

TBD at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 106.5