Men’s Basketball v.s. Cleveland State | Photo by Christian Peters | The Wright State Guardian
A four-game homestand against top teams in the league looked scary for Wright State University (WSU) Men’s Basketball, especially after losing their first game to the Cleveland State Vikings 67-71.
The Raiders were able to rally in their next matches, keeping their Horizon League (HL) championship hopes alive after this weekend’s games, crushing the Detroit Mercy Titans (DET) by 31 points and the second-place Oakland Golden Grizzlies (OAK) by 11.
With these wins, WSU not only shook up the HL standings by beating three top-five teams but has turned their own season around, locking down the league’s best shooters with their defensive play.
“Our defense is getting there, it’s just getting to where it gives us a chance to maybe be a championship team,” said WSU Head coach Scott Nagy. “We’ve got a long way to go, but our defense is starting to … when we struggle offensively, it carries us.”
Double down on defense
Nagy has pressed into his team hard this year to improve on defense.
WSU has had several games where the offense was on fire but where the defense fell short, losing five games so far where the Raiders scored 75 points or higher.
A big goal Nagy has pushed for his defense has been limiting opponents to one point per possession, an incredibly difficult goal to achieve against the Titans and the Golden Grizzles.
For DET, guard Antoine Davis was averaging the highest points per game (PPG) in the entire country coming into Friday’s game, and for OAK, their offense was averaging the highest PPG in the HL, with forward Jamal Cain averaging almost 20 PPG.
But, WSU was able to achieve that goal in both games, limiting Davis to 15 points and Cain to 13.
“We got the stops when we needed to get them,” Nagy said after the win over OAK. “We held them to one point per possession, which with Oakland, they’re one of the top offensive teams in the league, so that’s pretty good for us.”
While Grant Basile, Tanner Holden and Trey Calvin have been the stars for WSU all year, this weekend’s games showed that the Raiders have more depth than meets the eye.
While only putting five points on the scoreboard against OAK, Tim Finke had an incredible night in supporting his teammates finishing with seven assists and eight rebounds, almost getting a double-double without getting double-digit points.
He also guarded Cain nearly all game and was an integral part of why the forward averaging 20 PPG could not find success against the Raiders.
“Tim Finke, he’s an MVP of the game for me. He guarded one of the top players in the league and wrestled with him all night,” Nagy said. “Tim is so undervalued on our team, and I know the other people get more attention because of the scoring, but I’m super happy he’s on our team.”
Against DET, five players would score double-digit points on the Titans, including freshman AJ Braun, who has earned himself a regular spot on the starting lineup, and Andrew Welage off the bench, who has started to show some confidence with his shooting.
Freshman Keaton Norris shot 3-3 from the three-point line against OAK, scoring nine off the bench and making his final shot with under four minutes to play, putting the Raiders up by six and breaking the Grizzlies’ spirit.
“That shot he hit was the biggest shot of the game,” Nagy said. “I think that was probably the back-breaker for them.”