Wright State feeling right at home on the road

Wright State University forward Bill Wampler is covered by IUPUI guard Mike DePersia during their Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Wright State won 106-66. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

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Wright State University forward Bill Wampler is covered by IUPUI guard Mike DePersia during their Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Wright State won 106-66. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

Raiders can clinch at least share of Horizon League regular-season title with win Thursday at Youngstown State

Bill Wampler doesn’t understand why road games should be any tougher than playing at home.

Yes, opponents tend to perform better in front of their own crowds, but as the Wright State senior forward pointed out, the dimensions in opposing gyms are no different than they are in the Nutter Center. He sounded like The Hoosiers' Norman Dale that way.

“The baskets are all 10 feet. The balls are all nine inches (actually 9.39 to 9.55 inches in diameter). And the hoop is 18 inches across no matter where you go,” he said.

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All true, of course. And the Raiders have been able to flourish on the road this season because they aren’t an easily intimidated bunch, and they realize they don’t need to stray from what’s working so well at home just because the venue has changed.

They’re on pace to finish with their best road record in 33 years as a Division-I program. They’re 7-2 with three road games to go: at Youngstown State on Thursday, Cleveland State on Saturday and Northern Kentucky on Feb. 28.

They’ve played a more favorable schedule this season with an increase in home games — it’s the first time in years they’ve turned down those budget-bolstering payouts that come with visiting major-conference foes — but they’re one win away from tying their single-season record for road wins.

They went 8-7 twice previously under fourth-year coach Scott Nagy, and they also finished 8-7 in 2012-13.

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They lost 19 in a row on the road from 1998-2000 and 15 straight from 2002-04.

“We just have a veteran group that doesn’t get shook. And, for the most part, we’ve been pretty good defensively, and that’s what you have to do on the road,” Nagy said.

Home teams win roughly two-thirds of their games, and Nagy has a saying he’s often repeated: “Average teams win at home. Great teams win on the road.”

He coined another this week that’s just as valid: “You win championships on the road.”

The Raiders are in position to do just that with a strong finishing kick.

They’re 23-5 overall and 13-2 in the Horizon League and can claim at least a share of the regular-season crown with a win at Youngstown State (15-12, 8-6). Their other two titles also were co-championships, finishing in a tie for first in 2006-07 with Butler and last season with Northern Kentucky.

Two more wins will give them their first outright conference crown.

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They can become only the fifth team in league history to reach 16 victories. Butler went 18-0 in 2009-10 and 16-2 in 2007-08. Green Bay went 16-0 in 1995-96 and Valparaiso 16-2 in 2015-16.

Nagy, who has a 499-281 career record in 25 seasons, also is on the verge of entering select company. According to the NCAA, there were only 120 coaches in Division-I history in the 500-win club going into the season, 29 of whom are still active.

All victories count. Some coaches, like the retired Homer Drew from Valparaiso, accumulated many of their wins at lower levels. The 53-year-old Nagy’s first nine seasons at South Dakota State were in D-II.

“Before the season started, I knew we needed 24 wins. To say I never thought about it or looked at it — I had,” he said. “For me, it means two things:

“It’s good for our program because it reiterates to recruits that what we’ve been doing for a long time works — otherwise I wouldn’t be a head coach for that long. And it’s just a reminder of God’s grace, honestly, to be able to coach that long and have the success we’ve had.

“I give God all the credit. I always tell recruits, ‘I haven’t made a single basket.’ I think it just says we’ve done a good job recruiting good players.”


THURSDAY’S GAME

Wright State (23-5, 13-2) at Youngstown State (15-12, 8-6), 7 p.m., ESPN+/ESPN3/106.5

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