Wright State basketball: Defense leads Raiders past Green Bay

Wright State center Loudon Love blocks the shot of Green Bay forward Emmanuel Ansong during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
Wright State center Loudon Love blocks the shot of Green Bay forward Emmanuel Ansong during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

FAIRBORN -- There’s a reason Wright State coach Scott Nagy has made defense and rebounding the pillars of his program.

Offense comes and goes. And teams have seldom won championships basing their fortunes on something so fickle.

That was apparent in a 67-53 Horizon League victory Saturday over winless Green Bay. Wright State started 3 of 18 from the field and finished the first half 11 of 35 (31.4%).

Normally strong from 3, even that was an adventure (1 of 8).

ExplorePHOTOS: Wright State vs. Green Bay

But the Raiders had a 23-21 lead because the defense never waned. The visitors struggled for open looks and went 9 of 31 (29%) in the first half and 23 of 60 (38.3%) for the day.

“I was proud of our guys at halftime,” Nagy said. “Offensively, we were playing about as bad as we could play, and we were ahead by two. I told them, ‘That’s something to feel good about.’

“But their body language was bad. They were hanging their head. It’s just unfortunate that, for so many guys, it’s all about whether or not offensively they’re playing well and then they’ll feel good about themselves.”

Some players may still be in the process of fully embracing the Nagy way. In the last three games, the Raiders shot 58.0, 58.5 and 55.2 percent from the floor.

“It’s no different than anyone else I’ve had. You just have to fight human nature,” Nagy said. “But the reason we won the game was because, in the first half, when we were so bad offensively, we were good defensively.”

The Raiders (5-1, 3-0) finished 29 of 66 from the field (43.9%) and had a 47-30 rebounding edge while notching their fifth straight win.

Jaylon Hall — who has quietly become the Raiders’ most reliable deep threat (he was 41.2% on 3′s going into the game) — opened the second half with a trey and swished another with 12 minutes to go for a 42-38 lead.

Tim Finke, who played just two minutes in two games last weekend because of a concussion, hit another 3 on the next possession.

And after an exchange of baskets, Hall had a steal and break-away dunk for a 49-40 advantage.

Short-handed Green Bay (0-7, 0-3) — which was playing without its co-leader in scoring in Josh Jefferson, who missed the game for undisclosed reasons — trailed, 37-36, with 13:30 to go but was outscored, 14-6, over the next six minutes and never recovered.

Phoenix sophomore guard Amari Davis, a former Trotwood-Madison star, scored on a drive at 18:20 of the first half and also picked up a quick 3. But while he finished with a team-high 13 points (about two below his average), he went 6 of 16 from the floor and 0 of 2 on foul shots.

“More than any other team I’ve been on, I feel like this could be a really good team defensively,” Hall said. “We didn’t worry too much about our offense. We knew if we’d stick with it on the defensive end, we’d be all right.”

Star center Loudon Love, who is fifth in the nation in rebounding with a 12.2 average, had 12 in the first half alone. He finished with 17 points and 14 boards.

Back-up center Grant Basile, who was 3 of 21 on 3′s as a freshman last season, made the Raiders’ lone trey in the first half and is 5 of 10 this year. He notched 11 points and eight rebounds.

Tanner Holden, who seldom seems to have a bad game, led all scorers with 18 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) and 10 rebounds, while Hall added 12 points.

“Tanner just has a great feel and a great motor,” Nagy said. “If you were on the sidelines in the huddles, you’d see he probably has a bigger voice than anybody.

“He tries to keep people up. He’s encouraging. He talks probably more than anybody on our team. He’s become a really good leader for us.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Green Bay at Wright State, 2 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5

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