First-year Wright State coach Scott Nagy has been trying to convince his players to adopt a defense-first mentality and assured them they could win on nights when they didn’t have their usual high-flying offense.
He finally has proof of that after a 68-64 win over CSU Bakersfield in the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic before 3,123 fans Friday. The Raiders went 10 minutes in the second half without scoring and prevailed despite shooting 38 percent from the field and falling 22 points short of their season scoring average.
“I told our players after the game, ‘Good seasons are made up of a lot of games like that, where you struggle.’ And we struggled offensively. … Where I’m most pleased is, we guarded tonight really for the first time, and we were able to win a game where we didn’t play well offensively,” Nagy said.
The Raiders (4-1) had given up 81, 87 and 82 points to the previous Division I foes they faced, but they held the Roadrunners (3-2) to 35-percent shooting, including 5-for-24 from 3-point land.
“In order to be a really good team, that’s what you have to do,” Nagy said. “If the ball goes in, that’s great. But that kind of defense, you can count on every night to help you win games. That’s what won it for us.”
Five things we learned:
Slow start: Mark Alstork, leading the nation in scoring with a 30.3 average, had one field goal through the first 38 minutes, but he scored 12 points in the final two minutes and finished with 24.
Facing a defense designed to deny him the ball, he was 3-for-10 from the field and 15-for-19 from the foul line.
“In the beginning, I was trying to set screens and get my teammates open because coach (Nagy) has been telling me since I’m the leading scorer in the nation, they’re going to gang up on me. They’re going to try to deny me and get me off my game,” Alstork said.
He slipped free for back-to-back 3-pointers and then broke a 61-all tie with two foul shots with 52 seconds left, and the Raiders never trailed again.
“I made a couple big ones down the stretch,” he said.
Deadly shooting: Nagy has called Mike La Tulip the team’s best 3-point shooter, and the 6-1 guard showed why. He made 5-of-6 three-pointers while scoring a career-high 18 points.
“When you play with a talented player like (Alstork), you have to be ready to play your role. I got a couple open looks and that’s all because of him,” La Tulip said.
Lift off bench: Parker Ernstausen, a 6-11 sophomore, had six points in 26 minutes, but his biggest contribution came on defense. In the tense final minutes, he forced a wild inside shot that the Raiders retrieved and then took a charge on back-to-back possessions.
Technicals: Wright State’s Steven Davis was called for a technical with 8:17 left in the first half after he was fouled by Matt Smith. Davis gave Smith a nudge after the players became tangled up in a battle for the ball.
CSU Bakersfield’s Damiyne Durham and Wright State’s Justin Mitchell were issued techs while scrapping with 1:45 left in the game. And visiting coach Rod Barnes was T’d up with 0.5 seconds left for venting at the refs.
First game: North Florida (3-3) pulled out a 76-75 win over North Dakota in the opening game behind Dallas Moore’s 20 points. He hit a jumper with eight seconds left for the winning points.
Quinton Hooker scored 29 for North Dakota (3-1), which faces Wright State at 7 p.m. today. He made two foul shots with 18 seconds to go for a 75-74 lead.
The senior guard was the College Court Report mid-major player of the year last season.
Who: North Dakota vs. Wright State
When: 7 p.m.
What: Men Against Breast Cancer Classic
Where: Nutter Center
TV/Radio: ESPN3, 106.5-FM
First game: North Florida vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 4:30 p.m.
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