Wright State basketball: Holden shakes off slow start with breakout game

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

FAIRBORN — Tanner Holden didn’t want to show up at Wright State after a year away and have anyone feel as if he was trying to take over.

He never had to worry about that in his previous stint with the Raiders, mostly because so much of the offense revolved around him.

But Trey Calvin and Brandon Noel emerged in his absence, and Holden had to figure out how to best fit in.

“It’s always different coming back. That’s part of it. Guys get better, and you’re a year away from the system,” said Holden, who averaged 3.6 points at Ohio State last season.

“But I think I need to be a confident player. I have a lot of confidence in the guys and vice versa. I really think I just need to play my game.”

Holden looked somewhat tentative at the start of the season. In the Gulf Coast Classic last week, he had a pair of single-digit games where he scored just six and three points.

He failed to reach double figures only six times in 60 games in his previous two seasons with the Raiders.

Through the first six games, he averaged 13.2 points and shot 44.1% from the field.

But the two-time first-team All-Horizon League pick flashed some of his previous form in a 103-74 win over IUPUI on Wednesday.

He scored 26 points in 29 minutes, going 11 of 14 from the field (including a 3) and 3 of 3 on foul shots.

“Being away for a year, so many guys got so much better. For me, that makes it so much easier,” he said.

“I can score, but I think I need to be a better defender. My defense will play into my offense. That’s what the coaches have been stressing. We’ve had a lot of heart-to-hearts about that. (Against IUPUI,) I was locked in defensively.”

The Jaguars tried to contain HL preseason player of the year Trey Calvin with a 1-3-1 zone, hoping to get the ball out of his hands. But it ultimately backfired.

While he finished with a modest 15 points, about eight below his average, Holden did what he does best — finding creases to slash to the basket.

“He was active,” coach Scott Nagy said. “The last time Tanner was with us and a team played zone, he scored 37 points.”

That came in an NCAA First Four win over Bryant. He went 11 of 15 from the field and 14 of 16 on foul shots.

“Tanner is great in zones because of the way he cuts. When the shot goes up, they don’t have bodies on people. He’s got a great nose for the ball.

“I think zones slow Trey down, and I think it helps Tanner. We just have so many guys who can do a lot of things.”

Holden has passed Seth Doliboa, Mark Vest and Sean Hammonds this season to move into ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,586 points.

He’s 48 away from catching Bob Schaefer, a former Alter High School great.

ABOUT DAVIDSON: The Wildcats (4-3) are coming off an 85-81 road win Wednesday over rival Charlotte. David Skogman, a 6-foot-10 senior, had a career-high 30 points, and Grant Huffman had a double-double (10 points, 11 assists).

They beat Maryland, 64-61, and lost to Clemson, 68-65, in the four-team Asheville Championship.

They have six players averaging between 13.3 points and 8.1.

Davidson was picked 12th out of 15 teams in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. Matt McKillop took over last season for his father, Bob McKillop, who was the Wildcats’ coach for 33 years and recorded 634 wins.

They finished 16-16 a year ago and returned only two starters: Huffman, a preseason A-10 all-defensive team pick, and Reed Bailey, who averaged 5.5 points as a freshman.

The Raiders dropped a 102-97 double-overtime decision to Davidson at home last season. Foster Loyer had 38 points for Davidson and Calvin 37 for WSU.

FOUL-HAPPY: The Raiders were a little too handsy against IUPUI, getting called for 21 fouls and allowing the Jags to go 28 of 36 on free throws.

“Thirty-six free throws — that’s an unreal number,” Brandon Noel said. “We can’t let that happen.

“We have to stay down on drives and free balls. We’ve just got to quit fouling people, honestly. It’s as simple as that.”

Davidson went 22 of 36 against the Raiders in the first game last season.

IUPUI was the last opponent to top 36, going 27 of 40 in an 84-70 win on Jan. 10, 2020.


Wright State at Davidson, 3 p.m., ESPN+, 101.5, 1410

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