Wright State basketball: Raiders late push not enough in loss to Norse

FAIRBORN — Scott Nagy isn’t one to spout clichés.

When his team has a clunker of a game, he doesn’t try to sugarcoat it.

But while Wright State was as bad as it’s been all season for most of a 75-71 loss to Northern Kentucky at home Sunday, the last 1:23 left the sixth-year coach feeling encouraged.

“Honestly, I know coaches like to say this stuff, but it would’ve been so easy for our guys to roll over at the end. And they didn’t,” he said. “I think that’ll benefit us down the road somewhere.”

Two days after shooting 29% in a loss at Milwaukee — just their third game finishing under 30% in the Nagy era — the Raiders started 2 of 15 from the field and fell behind by 18 in the first half.

They made two 3′s in the last 40 seconds before halftime and but still only shot 25% and had more turnovers (8) than field goals (7).

“It’s tough to win a game when you shoot that poorly,” said forward Grant Basile, referring to the 60-57 loss at Milwaukee. “Obviously, it carried over a little today when you look at our shooting percentages. We were in the game, but you just can’t have those slow starts and bad turnovers.”

The Raiders scored the first six points of the second half to make it a six-point game.

The Norse, though, pushed their lead back to 12 on an Adrian Nelson layup with 1:38 left.

That’s when the Raiders showed their mettle and put a charge into the crowd of 3,232.

Basile made two 3′s and a pair of free throws, Keaton Norris contributed a trey and two foul shots, and Trey Calvin also made a 3 in the closing surge.

The Norse had wobbled a bit against a full-court press and didn’t max out at the free-throw line. And when Basile made the second of his bombs with 16 seconds to go, the deficit was down to two.

Though all-league guard Marques Warrick made a pair of clinching foul shots with 10 seconds left, the Norse knew they’d been pushed to the limit.

“They’re such a dynamic team,” NKU coach Darrin Horn said of the Raiders. “Scott does such a great job because of their ability to play inside-out, and (Tanner) Holden is so difficult to play one-on-one.

“I thought our aggressiveness really helped us in the first half. Our team is better when we play that way defensively. But they gave us a lot of issues. Fortunately, we just had some dudes making plays.”

So did the Raiders, who have lost four of their last eight games to fall to 15-12 overall and 12-6 in the Horizon League.

Basile had 25 points and nine rebounds. Holden, whose left (shooting) hand was hurting so badly that he tried one free throw right-handed, had 13 points and four assists. And Calvin kicked in 13 points and six boards.

“After the first half we had, it would’ve been so easy for our guys to go, ‘This isn’t happening.’ And we didn’t,” Nagy said. “Yeah, you want to win every game. You want everything to go the way you want. But there’s more important stuff sometimes in terms of being able to deal with things that aren’t going your way and fighting.”

Cleveland State leads the league at 13-3 and will play its final five games on the road.

Oakland is in second at 11-4 and hosts the Raiders on Friday.

NKU moves into third at 11-5, while Wright State is fourth at 12-6. Both have four games left.

Though the regular-season title is likely out of reach for Nagy’s team, the top five seeds get byes into the quarterfinals of the league tourney, which starts March 1.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. Everyone can lick their wounds and sit around and act like babies now. Or we can go win the conference tournament,” Nagy said.

“That’s our focus, moving toward that.”


Wright State at Oakland, 9 p.m., ESPN2, 980

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