FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy was just looking to give his team a little spark when he changed his starting lineup last week.
It wasn’t until he saw Milwaukee scrambling on defense that he realized the move was doing much more than that.
“As I watched the game, it dawned on me: This makes us harder to guard,” he said.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Huibregtse replaced senior Amari Davis in the first five. And though junior Andrew Welage was still coming off the bench, he played as much as the starters.
The 6-foot-3 Huibregtse had 25 points — 10 more than his previous career best — against Milwaukee and followed that with seven against Green Bay.
The 6-6 Welage had a combined 31 points in the two games. And both players defended, rebounded and knocked down shots at a high clip.
Opponents suddenly have to respect the Raiders from outside, which gives star guard Trey Calvin open lanes and inside players more room to roam.
“They’re our two best shooters,” Nagy said. “You’ve got Trey out there, and now you’ve got three players who can really shoot the ball. It changes the mindset of the defense.
The Raiders (13-10, 6-6) will take a modest two-game winning streak to Youngstown State on Thursday, and they hope the lineup change can have the same effect as the one in 2020-21 when Nagy inserted the 6-9 Grant Basile at forward with 6-8 Loudon Love at center.
He made the switch after losing at home by two to Youngstown State to fall to 7-3. Meeting again the next night — teams were playing back-to-back weekend games in the pandemic-altered schedule — the Raiders rolled to victory on their way to an 11-2 finish and a Horizon League regular-season title.
While they lost their first game in the league tourney, they finished 75th in the NET rankings. That’s the best showing by an HL team since the ratings started four years ago.
“We’ve got a lot of ball-screen plays, and spreading the floor out — with them being good shooters — is definitely helpful for us,” Calvin said.
Senior Tim Finke added: “It’s fun to find open people and play fast and just run and gun.”
Huibregtse actually started one game early last season but suffered a back injury that ended his year.
He texted his parents after he found out he was starting (they made the trip from Grafton, Wis., to watch). And he had to battle his nerves before tipoff:
“I just wanted to prove to the coaches that if they trust me to start, I’ll come through for them.”
He certainly did that, going 9 of 12 from the field and 5 of 10 on 3′s.
“They were leaving me open. I was getting a lot of wide-open looks,” he said.
“My teammates were getting me the ball. I hope I would knock down a few of them if they’re THAT wide open.”
But while the new lineup has the potential to be a season-changer, Nagy wants to make sure defense remains the top priority.
“Like I told Alex, ‘We’re not putting you in there because you can shoot the ball. If you think that’s why we’re putting you in there, because we’re a better offensive team, then you’re thinking incorrectly. And that’ll get you right back on the bench quickly.’
“‘We need you to be a tremendous defender and let the offense come after that.’ And Alex has done that for us.”
Wright State at Youngstown State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980
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