Wright State basketball: Rebounding prowess a key to Raiders’ success

Wright State’s Loudon Love secures the ball against Northern Kentucky at the Nutter Center on Jan. 24, 2020. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State’s Loudon Love secures the ball against Northern Kentucky at the Nutter Center on Jan. 24, 2020. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Wright State coach Scott Nagy has a stat that’s as close to a surefire formula for victory as he’s come across in his 25 years.

“I can count on one hand the times we’ve out-rebounded opponents by 10 and HAVEN’T won the game,” he said.

That’s certainly proving to be the case this season. The 18-4 Raiders have had double-digit rebounding edges in nine games and have prevailed in each of them.

Junior center Loudon Love is second in the Horizon League in rebounding with a 9.9 average, and freshman wing Tanner Holden is sixth at 7.3.

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At 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, Love has the frame to out-muscle opponents, but Holden overcomes his lean build with an uncanny knack for locating the ball on errant shots.

The Raiders are third in the nation in total rebounds at 913. Part of that is because they play at a fast pace, as do most of their conference foes, which creates more shots. But they’re also first in the league and 60th nationally in rebound margin at plus-4.7 per game.

“Those two guys alone are probably the biggest reason why we’re rebounding the ball so well,” Nagy said. “They’re both really good offensive rebounders. We’re almost to the point where we can let those two rebound and send the other three back (on defense).”

Holden had two 50-point games for Wheelersburg High School last season, but he also averaged 11 rebounds. His father, Rodney Holden, who played at Marshall from 1984-88, is eighth in all-time rebounds at the school and was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

“He’s to the point now where he’s just taken a lot of pride in it, which is a good thing,” Nagy said of the two-time league freshman of the week pick. “He’s hard to block out, and he just has a good feel.”

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Senior wing Bill Wampler knows he’s not equipped to battle in the trenches and appreciates the two who’ve been carrying the load.

“Tanner does a good job of coming inside and doing all the dirty stuff you wouldn’t expect a freshman to do right away. He just plays plays really hard,” Wampler said.

“It’s always good to have teammates like Loudon and Tanner because, if you see a ball coming off the rim, there’s about a 70 percent chance one of them is going to get a hand on it. It’s incredible.”

That’s an adjective many would apply to the Raiders, who have become the clear favorite to win the league and reach the NCAA tourney. They blitzed through the first half of conference play with an 8-1 record and hammered the second-best team, NKU, 95-63.

They have a two-game lead on the Norse and at least a three-game edge on everyone else.

The gulf between the Raiders and the rest of the league also is evident in the NET rankings. They’re 113th out of 353 D-I teams. NKU is 144th, and the other eight are between 236th and 315th.

One area that needs improvement, though, is foul shooting. They’re 302nd in the country at 65.9%.

Getting their best shooters, Wampler (77.5%) and Cole Gentry (92.1%), to the line more would help, but they’re 12th nationally in total free-throw attempts and 40th in free throws made. And Nagy believes they’ll be tough to beat if they keep that up.

“Even if you shot 50%, you’re still getting one point per possession. The average (in college basketball) is about one point. If you shoot above 50 percent, and you get to the free-throw line every single time down the floor, your points per possession are going to be higher than the average,” he said.

“So, even though we’re not shooting a great percentage, the fact we’re getting there and are going to shoot above 50% is giving us a good point-per-possession (rate).”


Wright State (18-4, 8-1) at Milwaukee (10-11, 5-4), 8 p.m., ESPN 3, 106.5

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