James Manns probably can’t keep up his torrid pace, racking up more than a point per minute over the last three games and leading Wright State with a 19.3 average over that span.
But the unheralded third-year sophomore has taken on a major role with star center Loudon Love out with a fractured elbow, and he’s playing with an ease and confidence that seem to swell with every bucket.
“I just try to go out there and play freely. The coaches always tell me just to have fun and don’t worry about making a mistake,” he said.
The 6-7 forward had 19 points, making three 3-pointers, and snagged eight rebounds in a 92-50 win over Mississippi Valley State before 2,773 fans Tuesday.
Tanner Holden also had 19 points. Jordan Ash, a grad transfer from Northwestern, tied his career-high with 11. And Grant Basile had a career-best 14 rebounds.
The lefty Manns didn’t even play in five of the first seven games and looked destined for mop-up duty until Love was injured Nov. 26. He scored just two points in the first two games after that, but he’s had a combined 58 points in 53 minutes against Indiana State, Southern and the winless Delta Devils.
“There’s no way to explain it,” Holden said of Manns’ offensive onslaught. “You can be in his face and he’s still going to shoot it. He can do about everything, and his shot is money every time.”
Five things we learned:
Work to do: The Raiders (9-3), who had been out-rebounded in three of the previous four games, had a 56-46 edge on the boards. But coach Scott Nagy wasn’t impressed.
“We gave up 19 offensive rebounds. That’s my concern above all,” he said. “I’m tired of watching that. We did out-rebound these guys, but if you shoot 26 percent (the Delta Devils’ field-goal clip), you’re probably going to out-rebound them no matter what.”
Quick start: The Raiders jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Bill Wampler, who returned after missing one game with a concussion, hit a 3-pointer and two free throws and assisted on a Cole Gentry 3 in the spree.
Not that it mattered, but the Delta Devils, coached by ex-NBA standout Lindsey Hunter, were assessed a bench technical in the first half that certainly didn’t help.
Michael Green, their leading scorer with a 19.3 average, was ejected after getting two technicals with 1:54 left. He scored four points in 12 foul-plagued minutes.
Rugged schedule: Nagy had empathy for Mississippi Valley State (0-10), which was playing its 10th straight road game to start the season and, as a struggling program in need of paydays, will play 14 of its first 15 games away from home.
“They’re on an 11-game road trip. It’s unfair to those kids. I looked at them when I shook their hands, and I know how they feel,” said Nagy, who recalled a six-win season while leading South Dakota State through a rough transition to Division I.
“I talked to our guys afterward, trying to get them to understand because they haven’t been in that situation — and to be thankful for being on a team where we go into every game with a chance to win.”
Getting the call: The Raiders were picked for an appearance on ESPNU on Jan. 3 as the network’s wild-card selection. They’ll play at Oakland at 7 p.m.
They have three other national TV games: home against Northern Kentucky on Jan. 24 (ESPNU) and UIC on Feb. 14 (ESPN2) and on the road at NKU (ESPNU).
Coming up: After playing at Toledo on Saturday and practicing Sunday, the players will get to go home for a couple of days before returning Christmas morning. The Raiders host Green Bay in their Horizon League opener at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28.
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