No player has been more vital to Wright State’s success — and more confounding to coach Scott Nagy — than junior star Loudon Love.
The team’s leading scorer and rebounder earned All-Horizon League honors last season, and he’s a player of the year candidate this year. But the big, strong, agile center is still only poking around the fringes of his potential, at least in Nagy’s eyes.
The coach zeroed in on Love after a subpar first half against Youngstown State on Saturday, and it’s certainly not the first time he’s been the target of a halftime harangue.
»ARCHDEACON: Bar has been raised for Raiders
“He wasn’t playing very good. What’d he have, five points and three rebounds?” Nagy said, though it actually was eight and three. “He needs to lead us. He needs to be our emotional leader. Guys follow him. Obviously, he had a lot more energy in the second half.”
He finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, and while Nagy was hesitant to be critical — “It’s a pretty good player if you can get 21 points and nine rebounds and they say you’re struggling,” he said — he was far from pleased because Love’s production would have been higher if not for several close-range misses.
Against the Penguins’ athletic frontcourt, he went 8 of 21 from the field and 5 of 9 on free throws. And the Raiders wouldn’t have had to sweat out a 79-72 victory if a few more shots had dropped.
But while he wouldn’t disagree with Nagy, Love pointed out that it isn’t as if he’s not giving his all.
“Coach got on me at halftime for not having as many rebounds, but I was trying to get as many as I could for us,” he said.
“I can guarantee two things. One is I’m not going to shoot 100% from the field and, two, the ones I miss, I’m going to try to get them.”
After four years together, including a redshirt year, Love realizes Nagy has his best interests at heart.
»RELATED: Raiders win again despite not being in top form
“I think he knows I’m trying to deal with those guys crashing the glass, too, so I’m working down there. It’s just a typical coach thing — expecting greatness from us and pushing us to that point.”
Nagy understands Love is giving maximum effort, which is why he seems so conflicted whenever he criticizes the likeable player.
But the 260-pound Illinois native can bull his way inside and get almost any shot he wants around the rim, though they’re almost always contested (a fact that’s overlooked by some fans, who can’t seem to hide their exasperation after misses).
Yet, in the last six games, he’s gone just 39 of 95 from the field (41.1%).
After shooting 53.3 as a freshman and 49.8 last season, he’s connecting at a 49.0 clip this season.
His free-throw shooting also has dipped. He’s 20 of 41 in the last five games and is shooting 49.4% after hitting 54.1 and 62.5 his first two years.
Asked if he can pinpoint a reason for the slip, Nagy said: “No, I can’t. He was shooting better before we got into the league.”
Though Nagy becomes animated on the sidelines after some misses, he wouldn’t trade Love for any center in the league. He’s led the Raiders to a 17-4 record and the top spot in the conference at 7-1, one game ahead of Northern Kentucky.
Love is 10th in the league in scoring (15.1 per game) and second in rebounding (9.9) and blocks (1.3).
“Players just go into lulls. He’s shooting more. He’s being more aggressive offensively, which is OK with me,” Nagy said. “The thing is, if he doesn’t make a shot, you’re not going to yell, ‘Finish!’ because he wants to finish more than anybody.
“He tends to get advice from a lot of people. But he really needs to hear less voices — probably just mine and his.”
Northern Kentucky at Wright State, 9 p.m., ESPNU, 106.5
About the Author