Wright State coach Scott Nagy tries hard not to rip into his players, believing it’s usually counterproductive. But he certainly felt like going berserk when a listless defensive effort allowed Oakland to take a 41-35 halftime lead Thursday.
The Grizzlies shot nearly 55 percent from the field and were getting practically anything they wanted inside.
“I had to make a conscious effort not to go in and raise my voice,” Nagy said. “They can see I was bothered, but they were bothered, too. We’ve got good kids who want to win, and they were just as bothered by it.
“The main thing was, don’t blow up. Let’s start talking about X’s and O’s and things we can do. Our kids already know they didn’t play as hard as they should have.”
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Those halftime adjustments — and ramping up the intensity — were just what the Raiders needed. They scored the first 18 points of the second half to build a 12-point lead and storm to a 76-62 win before 3,498 fans in a battle for second place in the Horizon League.
Loudon Love had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Bill Wampler tallied 16 points and six boards as Wright State improved to 14-11 overall and 8-4 in the conference, one game behind first-place Northern Kentucky.
The Grizzlies (11-14, 7-5) went 0-for-7 from the field with four turnovers during the Raiders’ scoring spree.
“He said he was trying not to yell,” Wampler said of Nagy’s halftime address. “He delivered the same message he did before the game. We had to come out playing harder, and we did.”
Here are five takeaways from the game:
New style: The Raiders have been playing at a slower tempo most of the season to accommodate the 6-foot-9, 280-pound Love, but Nagy wants them to become more of a transition team to cater to point guard Cole Gentry and other perimeter players.
“We’ve had guys who just haven’t played as well offensively as we hoped to this point. We haven’t been good in the halfcourt,” Nagy said. “We’ve been trying to play with a quicker pace, and that’s where Cole excels — in the open court.
“We held him back for so long trying to play Loudon more minutes. We decided after misses and turnovers, we need to run and try to get some easy shots. If Loudon plays less minutes, he plays less minutes.”
Mark Hughes (11 points), Malachi Smith (11) and Gentry (10) all seem better suited to play that way. And Love looks as if he can handle it since he had his ninth double-double this season while playing 32 minutes.
Defensive switch: Oakland’s twin towers of Brad Brechting and Xavier Hill-Maas combined for 19 points in the first half, but they had just seven after halftime.
“We made a simple adjustment. We started playing more behind them instead of fronting. If they were going to score, they had to score through us. We made it much more difficult for them to score at the basket,” Nagy said.
Taking charge: Oakland controlled the first half, but Hughes made a 3-pointer just eight seconds into the second half, igniting a surge.
Gentry, Wampler and Smith all scored twice at the rim, and Alan Vest added a 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 53-41 edge with 14:08 to go.
“It really helped that Mark hit that 3 right away,” Nagy said. “It flipped a switch for us.”
Nothing easy: The Grizzlies were held to 7-of-21 shooting and 21 points in the second half.
They were out-scored, 23-2, over the first 7:45 after halftime, and the Raiders pushed their lead 20 with 10 minutes to go.
Coming up: The Raiders host Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m. Saturday and then have a showdown with NKU at the Nutter Center on Friday.
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