Two starters went almost the entire game without scoring.
The 3-point shooting was far below the usual standards.
And the opponent was brimming with confidence, having won the last three meetings in the series.
Maybe in past years Wright State couldn’t have succeeded with all that working against it. Not this season, though. Not with this team.
The Raiders more than made up for the not-so-perfect aspects to their performance, hammering UIC, 75-58, on Friday to improve to 22-5 overall and 12-2 in the Horizon League, keeping their one game lead over Northern Kentucky (19-7, 11-3).
Loudon Love tallied 24 points and nine rebounds, and when the 6-foot-9, 260-pound center asserts himself, opponents tend to wilt.
Bill Wampler chipped in 19 points and Tanner Holden 16.
“Once we get him going and have him in a good mindset, he’s almost unstoppable,” Holden said. “And whenever he’s going, it opens it up for other guys because their defense has to shift and double him. He’s a great passer, so we get open shots.”
That didn’t help everyone. Cole Gentry (three points) and Jaylon Hall (two) didn’t score until the game was decided, but they had a hand in a stifling defensive effort. UIC (12-15, 7-7) was held scoreless over the first five minutes of the second half and shot just 34.4% while getting out-rebounded, 43-34.
“We were real pleased with how we guarded and how we rebounded,” coach Scott Nagy said. “We were way more physical inside than we were the first game (a 76-72 UIC win). The first game, they just scored at the basket and beat us up. We did a better job of taking care of the rim.”
Close for a half: Leading 39-33 at halftime, the Raiders scored the first nine points of the second half and never were threatened again.
Asked to pinpoint the difference, Wampler said: “Physicality. The last couple times we played them, they were more physical than us. Today, we were being physically dominant.”
Free-throw magic: The Raiders, shooting 67.3% from the foul line (283rd nationally), made their first 10.
They finished a season-best 19 of 21, including 6 of 6 from Love, who was hitting a career-low 52.6%.
That made up for their 3-point woes. Shooting 37.1% this season (28th nationally), they went 6 of 22.
Nice to be wanted: Nagy isn’t one to seek the spotlight, and he sure saw no reason Wright State needed to make an announcement when it extended his contract.
But he appreciated the gesture.
Athletic director Bob Grant approached Nagy about a new deal in 2018, giving him two more years to 2023 at his current annual salary of $500,000.
“I believe I’ve got the best AD in the country, honestly,” Nagy said. “He’s a wonderful AD to work for. And I feel like he’s got a lot of confidence in us.”
Grant made another adjustment to the contract in 2019, coming up with an additional $27,000 to give Nagy’s assistants a bump.
“I didn’t even have to fight for that,” Nagy said. “Bob has been pretty proactive in terms of taking care of me and taking care of our staff. It just goes back to him showing confidence in what we’re doing and being happy with it.”
Men in black: The Raiders staged a black-out, dressing in their road black uniforms and giving the first 4,000 fans T-shirts in the same hue, saying, ‘Get Rowdy.’
Attendance rising: The Raiders pushed their average attendance to 3,995 with a two-game surge, drawing 4,261 for UIC and 5,053 for Oakland.
They’ll need another good turnout for their home finale against IUPUI at 2 p.m. Sunday to average at least 4,000 for the seventh straight year.
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