Wright State has chance to make up ground in standings

Raiders host first-place Cleveland State on Friday night

FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy was somewhat of a soothsayer last season when he predicted the pandemic-altered Horizon League schedule would lead to more losses for the eventual champion.

His thinking was that playing the same team twice each weekend would give greater motivation to whoever lost first, leading to different outcomes in the rematch — and he was right.

The Raiders and Cleveland State shared the crown with 16-4 records, which would have been good enough to win the title in only two of the previous eight years.

Asked what it’ll take with 22 league games this season, Nagy said: “I think if you have more than four losses, you’re probably not going to win the league.”

Cleveland State is 9-1, Oakland 8-1, Wright State 8-3 and Purdue Fort Wayne 6-4.

Nagy said the two pace-setters “probably aren’t going to lose that many games. We’d better get going if that’s the case.”

The good news for the Raiders is they play the other three leaders during a four-game home swing that starts at 9 p.m. Friday against Cleveland State.

The Vikings won the first meeting at home, 85-75, by putting five players in double figures. Trey Calvin scored a career-high 28 points in a losing effort.

The school is doing its part to hype up the team’s first home game in 20 days, staging a “Black Out” and giving free T-shirts to the first 4,000 fans at the Nutter Center.

Nagy said the schedule “has been very unusual. Our first game of the year, we had a great crowd (3,717 against Lake Erie), and the students showed up. It’s two and a half months later, and this is the first home game we’ve had when our students have been here. We’re hoping they show up again. We know they’ll have a good time.”

That will depend, of course, on how well the Raiders perform. And while the offense is likely good enough to win a tile, the defense has been lagging behind.

They’re 287th out of 357 teams in points allowed per game (74.2) and 282nd in points per possession (1.041).

Last season, they were 81st (67.4) and 16th (.912) nationally.

It doesn’t take much soothsaying to know how far those numbers will take them.

“It gets you third or fourth place,” Nagy said. “I don’t have any interest in that, and I don’t think our players do, either. There needs to be some changes made in terms of how hard guys are playing and their passion for the defensive end.”

The late tipoff Friday was a welcome trade-off to appear on ESPNU, but the Raiders will have a quick turnaround for Sunday’s noon game against Purdue Fort Wayne.

“Emotionally, I’d say I’m most concerned about that game,” Nagy said. “Fort Wayne is playing really well, and I don’t have to say much to our guys to get them ready for Cleveland State.

“To have less than 48 hours to turn around and play a very good team will be the biggest challenge for us.”

The Raiders put on an offensive display in the first meeting vs. Fort Wayne, shooting a glittering 69.2% from the field in an 86-73 win on Dec. 2.

That’s their highest single-game percentage in at least the last 16 years (Wright State’s online season stats don’t go further than 2006-07). And there’s been only three other games where the Raiders even topped 60%: 64.8 against Ohio Valley in 2017-18, 63.6 against East Carolina in 2013-14 and 61.0 against Northern Kentucky in 2019-20.

The all-time best mark is 76.6 against Otterbein in 1978-79.

“In all the games I’ve coached, I might have only one or two others (that high) — and you’re looking at over 700 games,” Nagy said. “We really tried to beat them up inside, and we were able to do it that game.”

Repeating that success won’t be easy, of course.

“I’m sure they’ll look at the tape and make some changes,” Nagy said.

“Northern Kentucky packed it in (for its 73-63 win on Tuesday), and we didn’t shoot well. We haven’t been a great shooting team all year. But we’re going to have to step up and make some jumpers.”

TODAY’S GAME

Cleveland State at Wright State, 9 p.m., ESPNU, 980

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