Can’t beat ‘em with a zone. Can’t stop ‘em in man-to-man, either.
Northern Kentucky found out Friday what the rest of the Horizon League has already discovered. Wright State is going to pile up points no matter what defense is thrown its way.
A nationally televised game (on ESPNU) was never close after the opening few possessions. The Raiders ripped through a sticky match-up zone, making six of their first seven shots and connecting at a 61% clip while clobberimg their league rival, 95-63, before a rambunctious crowd of 6,217.
Tanner Holden posted his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Loudon Love notched his eighth with 16 points and 11 boards.
Bill Wampler tallied a game-high 19 points and a career-best six assists, while Jaylon Hall chipped in 15 points, Trey Calvin 12 (on four 3-pointers) and Cole Gentry 11.
“We had a really good week of preparation, but I don’t think we expected to win like that,” Wampler said. “It was just our night.”
The Raiders (18-4, 8-1), who went into the game 17th nationally in scoring at 80.9 points per game, raced to leads of 48-28 at halftime and 61-32 barely four minutes into the second half.
The Norse (14-7, 6-3) were playing without leading scorer and rebounder Dantez Walton, but they showed up with a five-game winning streak, all by lopsided margins.
Yet, they shot just 31.4% in the first half and 39.4 for the night.
“Most people will talk about the points we scored, but for us, it was the defensive end,” coach Scott Nagy said. “We were just so sharp. We did a really good job of guarding the basketball one-on-one because they spread you out and shoot a lot of 3’s.
“Most of the time, when people prepare for Northern Kentucky, it’s ‘How do we beat that zone … how do we beat that zone?’ But we spent more time talking about the defensive end. When we’re good like that defensively, we’re usually good offensively. We can run and get good shots.”
Nice cushion: The Raiders, who were 12 of 22 on 3’s, have a two-game lead in the league at the midway point and look as if they’ll be tough to catch.
“As long as we continue to guard like that, I’ll be happy,” Nagy said. “Our players really saw the benefit of it tonight and how it impacted our team and energy.”
Hitting the boards: Holden, a 6-6 freshman wing, has had two straight 13-rebound games and improved his average to 7.3, sixth in the conference.
“Some nights, it will be my night when I score in double digits. But I really try to focus on the rebounding aspect of it and just be the energy guy. I try to get hustle points and hustle rebounds to keep my team in the game,” he said.
All for the cause: The Wright State coaches were decked out in their usual dapper suits, but they went without shoes and socks to raise awareness for the charity Samaritan’s Feet.
The NKU coaches also participated but wore white sneakers.
Asked if it’s hard to take Nagy seriously when he’s barefooted, Hall said with a chuckle, “I don’t think there’s a moment when you CAN’T take coach Nagy seriously.”
Home-court advantage: Not only did the Raiders draw their biggest crowd of the year, including Gov. Mike Dewine, but the decibel level at the Nutter Center had the players jazzed up from start and seemed to leave their opponents rattled.
Fans also were supplied with green Glow Sticks, which were a nice touch when the lights were dimmed for opening introductions.
Coming up: The Raiders go on their Wisconsin swing with games at Milwaukee on Friday and Green Bay on Sunday.
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