Wright State basketball: Lack of consistency has Nagy perplexed

FAIRBORN — For Wright State coach Scott Nagy, trying to get the most out of his team these days is like playing a game of Whac-A-Mole.

The defense — which has been a season-long project — seemed to have turned a corner during a four-game winning streak, including an impressive beat-down of Oakland on Feb. 5.

But the offense went AWOL in a loss at Milwaukee last week. And then, in a crucial game for positioning in the Horizon League standings Sunday, the Raiders couldn’t do either well against Northern Kentucky, save for a flurry of points in the final 83 seconds.

“I’m at a loss as to why we’ve been so bad offensively the last two games. It’s been a struggle for us,” Nagy said.

Despite having the top offense in HL play at 76.9 points per game, the Raiders went 27 of 97 from the field in three consecutive halves (two against Milwaukee and one against NKU).

Connecting at a 27.8% clip will usually lead to disaster. They made 15 of 31 shots in the second half Sunday to finish at 37.3%, but they were torched on defense by the Norse, who shot 58% — the best showing by an opponent since Penn State also shot 58% on Nov. 20, 2018.

The Raiders’ floor game hasn’t been very reliable, either. They committed the most turnovers in at least the last 16 years with 26 against Cleveland State on Jan. 28, matched the fewest in a game in that time span with just four against Milwaukee and then had a sloppy 16 against NKU.


“We just couldn’t overcome the first half,” said Nagy, whose team scored just 22 Sunday, the lowest in a half since getting 17 at Purdue on Nov. 16. “We just looked flat.”

They did look listless for much of their latest loss, which dropped them to 15-12 overall and 12-6 in the league. Perhaps playing three games in five days took a toll.

Though he was quick to point out that the Norse, as their travel partners, also played the same three foes over that period, Nagy’s thin bench is beginning to become a factor.

Sophomore guard Alex Huibregtse, who started the opener, played just three games before being shut down because of a back injury. He’s likely out for the season.

Senior forward Riley Voss, a grad transfer from Cornell with plenty of Division-I experience, has played just seven games with one start. Nagy said he’s dealing with “an issue with his feet.”

Those are two valuable rotation pieces. And while the Raiders still have 10 scholarship players, Nagy’s reluctance to sub more means he only feels he can count on two or three reserves.

“We have six guys carrying a lot of minutes. Our bench is not very deep,” he said.

The Raiders have four players in the top 12 in the league in average minutes per game: Tim Finke 35.7, Tanner Holden 35.5, Trey Calvin 34.3 and Grant Basile 33.1.

Last season, the minutes were distributed much more evenly. League player of the year Loudon Love averaged 28.1 per game.

“Not having a guy like Alex, who is probably our best shooter, hurts,” Nagy said. “We haven’t had him all year, so people forget about him.

“But it impacts games, not having a deeper bench. And not just one game. (The NKU loss) was impacted by Friday and Wednesday because our guys are playing so many minutes. They just look tired to me.”

Nagy has tweaked his lineup in search of answers.

Freshman point guard Keaton Norris started Sunday in place of classmate A.J. Braun. A heady player in the Cole Gentry mode, Norris had five points, two assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes.

But Nagy made the switch more to help the 6-foot-9 Braun, who has a combined eight points and nine rebounds in the last four games.

“You think back to a couple years ago when Bill Wampler kind of struggled. We took him out of the starting lineup and brought him off the bench. He played the same number of minutes, and it helped Bill. He was an all-league guy,” Nagy said.

The Raiders lost eight of their first 14 games in 2018-19 before turning Wampler into a super sub. They finished 15-5 and reached the NIT with the 6-6 wing averaging 15.2 points off the bench.

“A.J. has struggled here of late. We’re just trying to help him get a different look — get a view of the game and then come in,” Nagy said.

“We’re just tinkering with that. We’re not mad at A.J. at all. We’re just trying to help him and give him a jump start.”


Wright State at Oakland, 9 p.m., ESPN2, 980

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