Wright State basketball: Nagy still sees room for improvement despite winning streak

Wright State’s Loudon Love drives in the lane against Green Bay at the Nuttter Center on Dec. 28, 2019. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State’s Loudon Love drives in the lane against Green Bay at the Nuttter Center on Dec. 28, 2019. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Wright State plays two Horizon League teams with losing records on the road again this weekend, and coach Scott Nagy is doing what he can to make sure his players aren’t expecting an easy time.

The Raiders walloped Oakland to begin a two-game swing in Michigan last weekend — and then needed a near-miraculous rally to pull out a 70-69 win against lowly Detroit , scoring the game's last seven points in the final 2:06.

As Nagy has often pointed out, playing in opposing arenas always adds to the degree of difficulty, and conference foes never allow themselves to think they’re overmatched no matter what the standings say.

»RELATED: Wright State-IUPUI preview

“You’d better be prepared every night and not assume anything,” he said. “I had so many people after the Oakland game think the Detroit game would just be a walk-through, and that’s ridiculous. I don’t think that way. I don’t let my team think that way.

“There’s some human nature to it that you have to fight. I told them for 48 hours how difficult a game it’d be — and it was.”

The Raiders (14-3, 4-0) have won seven consecutive games and will play at IUPUI (5-12, 1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday and visit UIC (6-11, 1-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

IUPUI is 290th out of 353 teams in the NET rankings, UIC 280th.

But Nagy is reminding his players they’ll never reach their long-term goals unless they address some notable weaknesses.

They’re 202nd nationally in scoring defense, giving up 70 points per game. The coaches prefer defensive efficiency ratings to gauge how they’re doing because it takes into account pace of play, and the Raiders are 104th, giving up .934 points per possession.

“We’re not horrible. But we’re not championship level,” Nagy said. “You can’t just count on outscoring people. That’s not the way I want us to operate.”

Nagy is so fanatical about getting that phase where it needs to be that the Raiders spent all but 15 minutes of a 90-minute midweek practice working on just defense.

“We have good kids who want to do what we want them to do. But I’d like to see it be less about what I want them to do, and more about what THEY want to happen — particularly on the defensive end,” he said. “We want it to be them buying into it instead of just doing what they’re told.”

One area where the Raiders have been performing at a high level is rebounding — at least with Loudon Love in the lineup.

They’ve out-rebounded foes in 11 of the 12 games he’s played, racking up an average of plus-8.0 boards per game.

They were out-rebounded in three of the five games he missed with a fractured elbow, finishing with a rebound margin of minus-2.2.

Love had a career-high 20 rebounds against Detroit, including 12 on the offensive end. The school record is 22, which was set by Thad Burton against Old Dominion on Nov. 18, 1997.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a player get 20 rebounds in all the years I’ve coached,” Nagy said. “I remember when Grant (Benzinger) got 19 one game. For a guard, that’s phenomenal.

“Unfortunately, with Loudon, a lot of those (offensive) rebounds are just his misses. He’d probably be the first to tell you. But still, he didn’t quit on it.”

The 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior— who is built like an NFL tight end and is hard to budge once he stands his ground — has 739 total rebounds, fourth on the all-time list. Bill Edwards’ school record of 907 is within reach this season if Love maintains his 9.8 average.

“I don’t care how big you are or how strong you are, you can’t move him,” Nagy said. “From the waist down, with the strength of his legs and the weight in his legs, he just has such a good base.”

Friday’s game

Wright State at IUPUI, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5