FAIRBORN — Wright State didn’t achieve its goals at the Vegas 4 tourney last week. Three wins in three days was the objective, and the program is to the point where anything less than that is considered a failure.
But the Raiders are still careening into the post-Thanksgiving portion of their schedule with oodles of momentum and confidence. That’s what happens when you thump two quality mid-majors and shoot at such a high rate that the baskets seemed as if they were smokestacks.
They hit 60% in blowing out Abilene Christian, including 68.4 in the second half.
They shot 64.9% in a rout of Weber State, including 73.3 (22 of 30) in the first half.
If not for a couple of lapses in a 70-65 loss to eventual champ UC Riverside — getting outscored 11-0 in the final three minutes of each half — the Raiders would have flown home with a three-game sweep.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve had a good start field-goal-percentage-wise,” coach Scott Nagy said. “I think we have a good shooting team. I think we can have a really good 3-point shooting team, too.
“But we always talk about playing inside-out. We always try to get the ball inside first (for close-range attempts) before we take some shots. Apparently, the players are listening.”
The 64.9% clip was the highest for the Raiders against a Division-I foe since hitting 69.2% in an 86-73 win at Purdue Fort Wayne in their Horizon League opener last season.
But that game seemed like an aberration. The recent one feels like the start of a trend.
The Raiders (5-2) are shooting 53.9% from the field this year, which is fourth in the nation behind Arizona (60.3), Indiana (55.5) and Gonzaga (55.0).
That’s on pace to be the highest mark in the program’s D-I era. Three Bill Edwards-led teams hit 51.6, 50.9 and 50.8 in the early 1990s.
The school record is 55.3 in 1985-86, two years before leaving the D-II ranks.
The reason the current percentage appears sustainable is that the Raiders distribute their shots among more players than ever before under Nagy, making them better equipped to withstand individual slumps.
They dress only 10 players, and nine have seen extension action every game. Eight of the nine are shooting above 50% with three at 60.0 or better.
Brandon Noel is at 68.6%, followed by A.J. Braun (65.2), Andrew Welage (60.0), Alex Huibregtse (59.5), Keaton Norris (57.1), Amari Davis (52.2), Blake Sisley (52.0) and Trey Calvin (50.5).
“That’s incredible,” Nagy said when told of that team-wide display. “I haven’t looked at it, but I’m guessing the guy who’s under that is Tim (Finke), and I’m not even worried about him.
“He’ll come along. And like I told him, when he does, just think how much better we’ll be offensively.”
After the Raiders blistered PFW last season, they still weren’t out of their funk. They lost their next two games to fall to 2-7 before catching fire.
But they’re more well-rounded this year, thriving on both ends of the floor. They’re giving up .938 points per possession, which is 103rd nationally, compared to 1.017 last season (229th).
“What I’m most pleased with is that we’re so much farther ahead defensively this year than we were last year, which is the best part,” Nagy said.
“I thought we’d have a good offensive team. So far, we’ve proven to have that. We’re just off to a better start because we’re better defensively.”
Opponents are shooting 42.9% — a big improvement from the 45.2 rate last season.
“We’ve just got a group that’s more committed to holding teams under one point per possession and understanding two things: that’s what’s going to help us when we struggle offensively, and it helps us offensively because it allows us to run and get great shots,” Nagy said.
If there’s one troublesome area so far, it’s foul shooting.
The Raiders are only 72 of 110 for 65.5%. Their worst mark as a D-I team is 65.3 in 1996-97.
“There’s only so much you can do about that,” Nagy said. “One of the ways to increase it is to get to the line more as a player. The more you’re there, the more comfortable you’ll get.
“I don’t know that talking about it helps. And it’s one of those things that’s hard to work on. … But if you get there six or seven times a game, you’re going to get more comfortable and make more.”
Robert Morris at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980
About the Author