Wright State coach Scott Nagy and others in his profession always feel as if they can’t address everything that needs attention in what practice time they have.
Something always gets neglected, and Nagy has been concerned he hasn’t been putting as much emphasis on rebounding as he should — not that it’s been noticeable on the floor.
Though it’s early, the Raiders have a monstrous rebounding margin of plus-14.3 per game. That’s the 26th-best mark in the country and the primary reason they’ve raced to their first 3-0 start in seven years.
“I’m a little surprised by that (average) because I’ve probably spent less time talking about rebounding than all the years I’ve coached,” said Nagy, who is in his fourth year at Wright State and 25th season overall.
“It’s been less of a focus, particularly on the offensive end. And we’ve been offensive rebounding like crazy.”
The Raiders, who host Kent State at 7 p.m. Saturday, have twice as many offensive rebounds as their opponents with a 52-26 edge, which is the equivalent of 26 extra possessions over three games.
Junior center Loudon Love, who is averaging 10.7 rebounds, is especially adept at retrieving Raider misses. He was 10th in the nation last year in offensive rebounding at 3.5 per game, and he’s up to 4.7 this year.
Freshman wing Tanner Holden is another player who attacks the glass at both ends with glee. He had 14 rebounds in an 85-80 win at Tennessee Tech on Tuesday and is averaging 8.7.
“He’s super active,” Nagy said. “There are things as a coach you just can’t teach — it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with them — and Tanner just has a good nose for the ball. He’s a great athlete. And it shows up in games like the other night.”
Rebounding fundamentals haven’t changed over the years. On defense, players are still taught to find a body and box out.
But Nagy said: “On offensive rebounds, it’s just ‘go get it.’ It doesn’t have to be a great athlete. Loudon isn’t a great athlete, but he’s hard to move when he gets to a spot. It’s more about desire.”
The 14.3 differential might not be sustainable, but the Raiders were 83rd in the nation last season with a plus-3.0 rebound margin, and they seem capable of surpassing that.
Where Nagy is most concerned, though, is his team’s defense so far. Opponents are averaging 79.3 points and shooting 45.2 percent.
The Raiders are 239th out of 353 Division-I teams in defensive efficiency, giving up 1.021 points per possession. They were 142nd last season (.997) and 12th in 2017-18 (.929).
“To be great, we’ve got to be a real good defensive team, and we’re not anywhere close to that,” he said. “Rebounding is one of the things keeping us in games, but our defense has to get way better.”
The Raiders can equal their best start as a D-I program (since 1987) with a win, but the Golden Flashes (2-0) finished 22-11 last season are the built the same way, relying on stout rebounding and a strong bench.
“We have a stretch of a lot of tough mid-major games, and Kent State might be the best of them all,” Nagy said. “They’re physical and a great rebounding team, especially on offense. They also play a lot of guys and probably are even deeper than us.”
PLAYER SIDELINED: Aleksandar Dozic, a 6-9 grad transfer from Marist, may miss the 2019-20 season because of a back injury. The native of Podgorica, Montenegro, averaged 7.0 points and 3.5 rebounds as a junior with the Red Foxes last season.
“He’s got some nerve damage in his back, and we’re really not sure if he’ll play the rest of the year,” Nagy said.