Wright State coach Scott Nagy has been yearning for more consistency this season, and the team’s Michigan swing last week was precisely the kind of up-and-down play he’s hoping to eradicate.
The Raiders followed a 79-58 loss at Detroit Mercy, which was picked to finish last in the Horizon League, with a rousing 89-73 rout of Oakland, which handed defending regular-season champ Northern Kentucky its first loss.
The 89 points were the most on the road by Wright State since a 90-87 double-overtime win at Butler on Jan. 2, 2002. And it’s the highest tally in a regulation road game since a 100-74 victory at UIC on Jan. 4, 1999.
“Offensively, we were sharp. Defensively, we were pretty good,” Nagy said. “There were a lot of hustle plays we were able to make early, and that gave our team a lot of energy and confidence.
“We averaged 1.25 points per possession, which is a high number. That means you’re shooting a good percentage, you’re shooting free throws, and you’re not turning the ball over.”
The Raiders (8-9, 2-2) are hoping it’s a sign of good things to come going into their game at Northern Kentucky (13-4, 3-1) at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPN2. But they’re shooting just 42.6 percent from the field, which ranks 268th among 351 Division-I teams, and part of their erratic play can be traced to center Loudon Love’s ankle sprain.
The 6-foot-9, 280-pound sophomore was hurt in the waning minutes of a 78-67 win over Morehead State on Dec. 18. He missed the Mississippi State game and has been competing without his usual mobility since league play started Dec. 28.
He shot 53.3 percent while being named conference freshman of the year last season and is shooting 51.6 percent this season, going 22 of 47 in four league games.
“Loudon has struggled, and he’s really struggling since his injury,” Nagy said. “He’s still not fully back from it, and I don’t know if he will be all year.
“It was a bad sprain, and he tweaked it again (Wednesday). It’s just going to be a constant thing for him the rest of the year.”
The Raiders will have to contend with Drew McDonald, the conference player of the year last season who is averaging 18.6 points and 10 rebounds. He’s had 14 double-doubles and one triple-double, getting 12 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a 93-71 win over Morehead State.
The 6-7, 250-pound forward was named Thursday to the watch list for the Lou Henson Award, which goes to the top mid-major player in the nation. Love and Detroit’s Antoine Davis also made the 50-player list.
“He’s a great offensive rebounder. He gets his own miss a ton because he has such a good feel. And he’s a good passer on top of that,” Nagy said. “He just puts a lot of pressure on a defense.”
The Raiders have gone 2-3 against the Norse under Nagy but have done reasonably well against McDonald. He’s averaged 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in the five games.
The toughest match-up for Northern Kentucky may be point guard Cole Gentry, who had a team-high 22 points at Oakland.
He’s made 25 straight free throws over the last six games and is shooting 94.2 percent, which is fourth in the nation. He hasn’t missed since his last attempt at Kent State on Dec. 8.
Jesse Deister holds the school record for consecutive free throws with 47 and season percentage at 94.9 in 2000-01.
“He’s just a good shooter. Look at his 3-point percentage,” Nagy said, referring to Gentry’s 43.2 clip. “People aren’t going underneath ball screens with him (and giving him room). You just can’t. He’s really, percentage-wise, the best shooter on our team.”