Wright State was heading to a game at Mississippi State last year knowing it would have to improvise since star Loudon Love was out with a sprained ankle. And despite being shorthanded, the Raiders pushed the 17th-ranked Bulldogs for 40 minutes before falling, 67-63.
Coach Scott Nagy is hoping to get the same effort and production from his team again with Love sidelined indefinitely with a right-elbow injury.
The All-Horizon League center took a hard fall in the second of three games at the Gulf Coast Showcase last week . Nagy didn’t want to speculate until hearing from the medical staff — Love was scheduled to undergo tests Monday, though the coach didn’t know when he’d get definitive results — but the 6-foot-8 junior is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks.
“Where we’re mostly hurt is depth. That’s the main thing. But even offensively, it changes us. It makes us more of a perimeter team,” Nagy said.
“When we went to Mississippi State last year, Parker (Ernsthausen) was our 5, and he was able to shoot the ball a little bit. It changes what our offense looks like. We’re hoping Grant can do that for us, too.”
Grant Basile, a 6-9 redshirt freshman who had 17 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Miami on Wednesday , has already displayed an ability to shoot the 3. And that defense-stretching skill will be needed when the Raiders (6-2) host Western Kentucky (6-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Hilltoppers, the preseason favorites in Conference-USA, are led by 6-11 sophomore center Charles Bassey, who was named a first team All-American by Lindy’s magazine and Street & Smith.
The native of Lagos, Nigeria, was the conference freshman of the year and defensive player of the year last season, and he became just the second freshman at the Division-I level since 1992 to average 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks while shooting 60 percent from the field, joining Anthony Davis.
“He’s really hard to score on around the basket, and he’s a good offensive rebounder,” Nagy said. “He really runs the floor. He’s about twice as fast as Grant, so that’s going to really be a problem for us.
“That’s why Grant is going to have to be able to play on the perimeter a little bit and shoot the ball and pull him away from the basket.”
Nagy believes the Hilltoppers are as good as any team on Wright State’s schedule. They’ve shot 80 more free throws than their foes — 10 per game — and are hitting 79.7 percent.
The Raiders have had issues at the foul line. They’re shooting 66.9 percent, which is 251st among 353 D-I teams, and they missed 12 in each of the last two games at the Gulf Coast Showcase, including a two-point loss to eventual champion La Salle.
“Free throws are a problem. … It’s becoming a little bit of an epidemic. Guys are thinking about it and tightening up,” Nagy said.
Senior wing Bill Wampler made the all-tournament team at the event in Estero, Fla. In the opener against Weber State, he scored the team’s first 12 points and finished with 27, two off his career high.
He had 15 points against La Salle and 14 against Miami as the Raiders finished third in the eight-team mid-major tourney.
Sophomore wing Jaylon Hall, who sat out all but one game last season with a shoulder injury, also has played well of late to hike his average to 10.0, scoring 17 against Miami and 15 against La Salle.
“Honestly, I thought Jaylon should’ve been (on the all-tourney team),” Nagy said. “Of all our guys, Jaylon had the best tournament. On top of playing better offensively, he has the toughest defensive assignment every game.”
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