“It felt good, of course, because if it wasn’t for my teammates and my coaches believing in me, none of that would have happened,” said Winchester, who scored eight of the Raiders’ first 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting.
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“He should’ve been doing that all year,” WSU senior Grant Benzinger said with a smirk and a nod toward the freshman, who was getting dressed a few feet away.
“Unless coach was telling him something that we didn’t hear, I think he just took it in his own hands,” Benzinger added. “He took responsibility and he made plays. We needed those plays to be made, and he did.”
Winchester finished with 11 points and three rebounds in just 21 minutes.
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Asked if a performance like that against an opponent like that can be a springboard to big sophomore season for Winchester, Nagy said he thinks the prospects are raised for every returning player.
“The expectations for our whole team should change in terms of how we prepare for next year and what they think,” he said. “We primarily lose one guy (Benzinger) that has played for us, and we’re added six — six good players.
“So our depth is going to change a lot,” he continued. “It’s going to be very competitive. The guys coming back understand what it takes, understand the culture that’s needed, and they’ll be able to teach the new guys. So we’re obviously very excited about the future. It’s just hard to think about those things today.”
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Losing Love: The trouble WSU had scoring in the first half was compounded by the fact that Horizon League Freshman of the Year Loudon Love watched most of it from the bench with foul trouble.
Love picked up his first foul three minutes into the game and his third with 5:26 left in the half as he played just 10 minutes.
“It’s tough from a personal standpoint, not just because I’m sitting there, but because I can’t help contribute for the team for at least those 10 minutes,” Love said. “I’ve got to be smarter. We knew they were physical, and you just can’t make stupid fouls.”
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Nagy echoed that sentiment.
“The first two fouls Loudon got were not good fouls for him,” he said. “Early in the game, he just wasn’t in a good spot.”
Board beatdown: The Raiders had only been outrebounded once in their last 15 games, but Tennessee dominated them for a 44-32 advantage that was the worst differential of the season for WSU.
The Volunteers had four players with at least seven rebounds, led by Admiral Schofield’s 12.
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“Our post defense was important,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “With Love, he does such a great job of creating angles. And if you let him catch it with a foot in the lane, it’s hard to guard. We thought we had to rebound, and we thought we could get to the offensive boards.”
Thirteen of the Volunteers’ 44 rebounds came on offense and resulted in 16 second-chance points.