“Obviously, we watch a lot of film as a team, but you can see the full game and get a feel for the flow of the game and get familiar with guys that way,” he said.
That means he’s ready for whatever Northern Kentucky might throw his way when the teams do battle at 9 p.m. Friday on ESPNU. Much is riding on the outcome, as is usually the case in the series.
The Raiders are 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the conference, while the Norse are 14-6 and 6-2, having won their last five games.
“Obviously, they’re a well-run program. We know that going in,” Gentry said. “They’ve got some great players back that they had last year.”
Wright State and NKU clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the conference the last three years.
The Norse have won two league tourney crowns, an outright regular-season title and a co-championship in that span, while the Raiders have captured one tourney title and shared the regular-season crown in 2018-19 with NKU.
Wright State is 129th in the NET rankings this season, NKU 132nd. All other league teams are outside the top 200.
“It’s a rivalry for sure — on several levels,” fourth-year Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. “One, we’re very close (in distance). That lends itself to creating a natural rivalry. Two, we recruit a lot of the same players. That lends itself to it. And three, we both, over the past three or four years, have been pretty good. There’s all kinds of reasons why it’s a big game right now.”
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The Norse had to replace last year’s league player of the year, Drew McDonald, along with coach John Brannen, who went to Cincinnati. But they’re still contenders, even though they’ve been plagued by injuries.
Dantez Walton, a 6-6 senior, averaged 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in the first 11 games before being sidelined with a chest ailment (an NKU spokesman declined to update Walton’s status this week). And Jalen Tate, a 6-6 junior, missed 10 games with a broken hand, but the preseason all-league pick is performing at a high level again.
“They’re playing great,” Nagy said. “They’re probably playing better than anybody in the league.”
Wright State-NKU games may not always bring out the best in both teams, but they’re generally the most fiery. Raider fans have to put up with about 1,000 Norse backers in the Nutter Center each year.
“It’s the highest-intensity game all year by far,” senior wing Bill Wampler said. “It’s on ESPNU, so it’s national coverage. It’s just a big game and fun to play in.
“It’s one of those games you don’t have to prepare extra for. Some games, especially on the road, you’re kind of flat. This game, you have all the motivation in the world.”
Since they’re travel partners, it’s the only game for either team those weeks, which is helpful. Players tend to need time to recover physically and emotionally.
“There is something extra to those games,” Gentry said. “We’ve both been at the top of the league the last three years. You can definitely feel the energy.”
Northern Kentucky at Wright State, 9 p.m., ESPNU, 106.5