Wright State finds winning formula by picking up intensity

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

FAIRBORN — College basketball coaches try to make sure their teams have fresh legs for games, of course. That’s why practices the day before they play are never strenuous and shoot-arounds on game days are even less taxing.

But after a 2-4 Horizon League start, Wright State’s Scott Nagy did something radical. Instead of taking it easy on his players, he put them to work.

“We’ve started going hard in practice the day before the game. And we’re going hard in shoot-arounds. We’re treating shoot-arounds almost like a short practice,” he said.

“We’re just trying to find who’s ready to play today? Who’s going to fight us on this? Our seniors have embraced it, and everybody else has just followed.”

The Raiders were certainly ready to play at Green Bay and Milwaukee last week as they swept both Wisconsin teams on the road for the first time in 10 years.

They shot 71.9% in beating GB — their best field-goal percentage against a Division-I foe in at least the last 17 years (Wright State’s online record-keeping only goes back to 2006).

The best mark in program history is 76.6% against Division-III Otterbein on Dec. 16, 1978. They shot 74.1% against Division-II Defiance this season.

“I don’t know how many games I’ve coached — has to be dang near 1,000 — and I think maybe in three games we’ve shot 70%. You just don’t ever do that,” said Nagy, who is 552-311 in 28 years and worked seven years before that as an assistant.

The Raiders went into the week fourth nationally in field-goal shooting at 50.4%. They haven’t hit 50% for a season in 30 years.

“One thing we’re going to do is throw it inside,” Nagy said. “Most teams don’t make you guard the post like we do.

“We post a lot of people. It forces teams to change things defensively and play people they normally wouldn’t play, so we get great shots.”

While that may be sound strategy, the Raiders relied on other facets in beating the first-place Panthers, 78-74, in overtime.

They gave up 20 offensive rebounds — the most for an opponent since Cincinnati and Cleveland State also had 20 in 2012-13.

They had 20 turnovers — their highest total in two years.

They also were a horrendous 6 of 28 on 3′s.

“I don’t know how you win a game where you have 20 turnovers and give up 20 offensive rebounds, but we did,” Nagy said.

“We were good defensively, the best we’ve been this year. We just couldn’t finish (defensive possessions). If we had just taken care of the ball and rebounded, we’d have crushed them.”

But Nagy liked the fight in his players.

Those ramped-up pre-game sessions may be paying off.

“We were playing hard, and they were playing hard. And we just gritted one out,” he said.

The victory gave the Raiders the lift they needed in the league race.

“It gives us a chance to climb back into this thing, where, if we’d lost, it’d be tough,” Nagy said. “It kind of brings everybody back into the mix.”

Youngstown State, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State and Milwaukee are 6-2 with 12 games to go.

Oakland is 5-3, while Wright State and Purdue Fort Wayne are 4-4. The Raiders play their next four games at home, including a visit from PFW at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“This year in particular, there just isn’t any clear front-runner. I think it’s going to be a scrap to the end,” Nagy said.

Noel wins league honor

Wright State’s Brandon Noel earned his second straight Horizon League Freshman of the Week honors on Monday.

Noel averaged 27.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the Raiders’ wins at Green Bay and Milwaukee. He scored a career-high 32 points against Green Bay.


Purdue Fort Wayne at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980

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