Wright State basketball: Raiders set to open Horizon League play

Wright State freshman Tanner Holden looks to score against a Mississippi Valley State defender earlier this season at the Nutter Center. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State freshman Tanner Holden looks to score against a Mississippi Valley State defender earlier this season at the Nutter Center. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Wright State coach Scott Nagy can give you a detailed scouting report on Green Bay, his team’s opponent Saturday afternoon, but he can’t tell you what else has been happening around the Horizon League during the non-conference season.

That’s not unusual for him. He operates on a need-to-know basis, focusing only on the game in front of him, and doesn’t care how others have been faring until it’s time to play them.

RELATED: Green Bay-Wright State preview

“When I go home, I’m not watching scores,” he said. “I just know once you start the conference (season), the non-conference doesn’t really matter, what you did.

“Some of it I can’t avoid. But I don’t spend a lot of time looking at it. I don’t even watch that much ESPN. When I go home, I’ve got to get away from it. I’d rather watch a movie than watch a game.”

The Raiders are the preseason conference favorites and shared the title with Northern Kentucky last season. Those two are the only league teams in the top 200 in the NET rankings — Wright State is 111, NKU 116 — and are two of only three teams with winning records along with Youngstown State.

Nagy, though, doesn’t read too much into that, at least in the case of the 5-8 Phoenix.

“Look at how our schedule stacked up against Green Bay — they played a lot tougher schedule. Still, they’re scoring like crazy, and it’ll be as tough a challenge for our defense as we’ve had,” he said.

The Phoenix, which is averaging a league-high 82.6 points, has played road games against Purdue, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Xavier and Central Florida.

The Raiders loaded their schedule with quality mid-major foes and have gone 10-3 — the program’s best non-league winning percentage in the Division-I era (since 1987).

A key to their success has been the emergence of Tanner Holden, a 6-6 wing from Wheelersburg. He was named the conference freshman of the week after tallying 27 points (going 9-of-10 from the field and 9-of-12 on foul shots) and 17 rebounds against Toledo on Dec. 21.

He’s averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds in his last three games.

“He gives us a different dimension because of his size. He can post up a little bit. And teams have struggled to figure out how to guard him and who to guard him with,” Nagy said.

Green Bay also has a freshman who looks like a budding star: Trotwood-Madison grad Amari Davis.

The 6-3 guard is fifth in the league in scoring with a 15.9 average while shooting a conference-best 56.8 percent from the field. He’s won four of the seven conference freshman of the week awards.

Davis was named the Ohio Division II player of the year last season after leading the Rams to a state title while averaging 30.1 points.

“People say, ‘Why didn’t you recruit Amari … why didn’t you recruit Amari?’” Nagy said. “We did recruit him. Green Bay probably recruited him harder. But we ended up getting Tanner. They’re really the same position, and they’re both really good players.”

Horizon League capsules:

Northern Kentucky

(2nd in league preseason poll)

Record: 8-4

NET ranking: 116 (out of 353 Division-I teams)

Current streak: One loss

Notable wins: Ball State (Road), Illinois State (Home)

Leading scorer: Dantez Walton 18.4

UIC (3rd)

NET ranking: 280

Record: 5-8

Current streak: One win

Notable wins: Purdue-Fort Wayne (H)

Leading scorer: Tarkus Ferguson 14.6

Oakland (4th)

NET ranking: 213

Record: 5-8

Current streak: Four straight losses

Notable wins: Southern Illinois (N), Western Michigan (R)

Leading scorer: Xavier Hill-Mais 15.6

Green Bay (5th)

NET ranking: 233

Record: 5-8

Current streak: Two straight wins

Notable wins: Northern Illinois (R)

Leading scorer: Amari Davis 15.9

Youngstown State (6th)

Record: 7-6

NET ranking: 256

Current streak: One loss

Notable wins: None

Leading scorer: Darius Quisenberry 15.2

Milwaukee (7th)

NET ranking: 225

Record: 5-7

Current streak: Five straight losses

Notable wins: Missouri-Kansas City (H)

Leading scorer: Darius Roy 16.8

Detroit Mercy (8th)

NET ranking: 313

Record: 2-10

Current streak: One win

Notable wins: UC Irvine (N)

Leading scorer: Antoine Davis 25.3

IUPUI (9th)

NET ranking: 307

Record: 4-9

Current streak: One loss

Notable wins: South Florida (A), Purdue-Fort Wayne (H)

Leading scorer: Marcus Burk 18.6

Cleveland State (10th)

NET ranking: 305

Record: 4-9

Current streak: Five straight losses

Notable wins: None

Leading scorer: Algevon Eichelberger 13.0

SATURDAY’S GAME

Green Bay at Wright State, 2 p.m., ESPN+, 106.5