Wright State basketball: Rebounding remains key for Nagy, Raiders

Wright State center Loudon Love and Youngstown State forward Michael Akuchie battle for a rebound under the Wright State basket during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
Wright State center Loudon Love and Youngstown State forward Michael Akuchie battle for a rebound under the Wright State basket during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

FAIRBORN -- Wright State’s Scott Nagy is an old-school coach, building his program on intensity and competitive fire rather than some newfangled offense.

Those traits show up most often in rebounding stats. And that’s the first place he looks after a game to gauge his team’s performance.

“I know in the history of my coaching career, which is starting to get fairly long, I’ve only had one game where we out-rebounded a team by 20 and lost — and it’s one of two times where I felt like we absolutely got cheated by the officials,” said Nagy, who is in his fifth year with the Raiders and 26th year overall.

ExploreRaiders flip the script, hammer Youngstown State

“I never say that (about the refs). But I know if we win (the rebounding margin) by 20, we’re going to win the game for sure. Almost always, if you win by 10, you’re going to win the game.”

The Raiders bludgeoned Youngstown State on the boards, 51-29, on their way 93-55 victory Saturday, avenging a two-point defeat to the Penguins about 20 hours earlier.

That was one of many positive signs for the preseason Horizon League favorites, who would have put themselves in danger of falling out of the conference race with another setback.

They’re 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the league, two games behind first-place Cleveland State, which is a surprising 8-0 — their best start since joining the league in 1995.

The Vikings, who beat Northern Kentucky in overtime at home Saturday behind Trotwood-Madison grad Torrey Patton’s 18 points and 12 rebounds, visit the Raiders for a pair of games this weekend.

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” said Wright State’s Tanner Holden, who is averaging a team-best 17.1 points. “There are always things to work on. Definitely, defense is something we need to work on. I think we can be a great defensive team.

“Coach talks about that every game. He’s trying to get in our heads that defense wins ball games, not offense. If we do that, we’ll be a really, really special team.”

The Raiders are trending in the right direction. They have a plus-9.5 rebound margin per game, and they’re averaging 80.1 points while giving up just 66.1, leading the league in all three categories.

They’re also finally developing some depth. Though they played without three-year starter Jaylon Hall on Saturday — Nagy labeled Hall’s absence a “coach’s decision,” which means something other than a health reason — they put six players in double figures.

Holden had 24 points, Loudon Love 15 and Grant Basile and Tim Finke 11 each, while subs Alex Huibregtse and James Manns hit season highs in scoring with 12 and 11, respectively.

Andrew Welage, a freshman backcourt reserve like Huibregtse, played 14 minutes and had two points, two assists and five rebounds.

“We have to get those guys some minutes because we’re going to need them,” Nagy said. “We played our guys a lot of minutes (Friday). I don’t want to do that, particularly on these back-to-backs.”

Manns has been noticeably under-utilized — especially with his scoring prowess. The 6-7 junior was instant offense last season, tallying 142 points in 195 minutes (that’s an average of 29.1 points per 40 minutes).

“We’ve been telling James, ‘You’re going to see more time. We need you to get comfortable.’ And hopefully he will,” Nagy said. “The biggest thing we want him to focus on — which is everyone — is defense.

“They’ll get more comfortable on defense the more minutes they play, and it was important that all those guys got minutes in the first half. Those are very valuable minutes.”

The visit from Cleveland State normally would have the Nutter Center rocking. But, apart from a few dozen cardboard cutouts, the stands will be empty.

The Raiders have had trouble adjusting to the lack of buzz. They only lost twice at home in each of the previous three seasons but have already matched that total.

“It’s hard to play inspired with nobody sitting in the stands. You feel like every game is a scrimmage,” Nagy said.

“People bring energy, and when they’re not in the stands, it’s a different deal.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Cleveland State at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPNU, 106.5

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