Wright State star Loudon Love will be out four to six weeks with a right-elbow injury, which ordinarily would leave a gaping hole in the lineup because of his consistent production.
But the Raiders have been able to replace their double-double machine with another player capable of reaching double-digits in scoring and rebounds, at least so far.
Grant Basile, a 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman, had 12 points and 10 boards in a 76-74 home win over Conference-USA preseason favorite Western Kentucky, which is led by All-American candidate in Charles Bassey.
Basile (pronounced Buh-SILL-ee) also had the most important defensive play Tuesday. Down by one with a minute to go, the Hilltoppers (6-3) fed their 6-11 sophomore. And Basile held his ground, blocked a jumper, snagged the loose ball and drew a foul.
He made one of two fouls shots with 55 seconds left, and the Raiders (7-2) came up with two defensive stops after that, including a missed Camron Justice drive at the buzzer.
“I’m really pleased with Grant,” coach Scott Nagy said. “Even more so with his defense — even when he didn’t get blocks. He adjusted shots, and he did that the last game too. He’s very long and has good timing.”
Basile had 17 points and 12 rebounds in his first career start, a win over Miami last week.
Bill Wampler had a game-high 22 points against WKU, while Cole Gentry had a season-best 17 points.
“We all have to step up a little bit,” Gentry said. “(Love) is a guy who gives us a lot of production in a lot of different ways. It’s going to have to be everybody, a team effort, to make up for what he’d give us.”
Five things we learned:
Hectic finish: The Raiders led, 71-62, on two Wampler free throws at 4:44. But the Hilltoppers stormed back, taking a 74-73 lead on a pull-up jumper by Justice.
Gentry’s scoop shot at 1:12 put Wright State back in front, and the defense did the rest.
“The halves we’ve played since (Love’s injury), our kids are playing so hard,” Nagy said. “There’s a sense of urgency where they know we just have to. There’s no other option if we want to win.”
Star power: Bassey was named a preseason first-team All-American by Lindy’s magazine and Street & Smith. He’s a bit raw and has a lean build, but he looks like a future NBA player.
He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, but foul trouble limited him to 25 minutes. And the Raiders grabbed the game by the throat in the second half, shooting 50 percent while committing just three turnovers.
Free throws: The Raiders missed 12 foul shots in each of their previous two games and went 14 of 20 against WKU. They’re shooting 67.2 percent.
“That’s the thing that really needs to improve for us,” Nagy said. “I feel like we’d be undefeated if we could shoot the ball from the free-throw line. We just haven’t been very good at that this year.”
Positive sign: Gentry hadn’t done poorly in the first eight games, but the senior point guard wasn’t playing up to his usual standards, averaging 9.8 points and 2.3 assists after finishing last season at 11.7 and 3.2.
But he scored three straight baskets at the rim in the first half and went 8-of-10 from the field.
“He’s struggled a bit, and I thought he was tremendous tonight,” Nagy said. “It was fun to see all his hard work pay off.”
Coming up: The Raiders host Indiana State at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by two more home games. They travel to Toledo Dec. 21 and then start Horizon League play.
If Love is out four weeks, he’ll miss at least a couple of conference games.
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