Wright State and Miami need a victory. That doesn’t make the 2 p.m. game in Oxford today a must-win for either team. It just means a win would reverse recent fortunes for one team, at least for a day, and a loss would add to mounting frustrations.
The Raiders, a team many thought would win the Horizon League, fell to 5-6 by losing three straight games on the road and have yet to win a true road game.
“You have to look at things evenly,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “If we win the game on Sunday, we didn’t suddenly cure all our ills. If we lose the game, yeah, you’re not going to feel good, but our season isn’t over.
“Certainly, there has to be some great urgency for the game, but I think that’s every night you play. I don’t think that should ever change. Obviously, we’re in a little bit of a rut right now. Winning helps you get out of those things quickly.”
The RedHawks are 1-5. They’ve played a tough schedule, opening the season with games against Notre Dame, Arizona State and Xavier. But they also lost 65-63 at home to a Division III team, Wilmington, three weeks ago.
Miami ranks last in the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense (64.8) and last in scoring defense (78.5).
“We’ve certainly struggled,” Miami coach John Cooper said. “We’ve got one win. It’s been a tough road. We’ve had some tough road games and gone to places where probably not a lot of people have success. That certainly isn’t an excuse. We’ve got to play better on the defensive end. And we’ve struggled shooting the ball (40 percent from the field). That’s no secret. Unfortunately, for us, that has also affected us on the defensive end.”
Wright State, allowing 67.8 points per game, ranks second in the Horizon League in scoring defense. That’s just over nine points worse than last year. Some of that difference can be attributed to the changes in how games are being called.
The emphasis on calling hand-check fouls has led to a six-point increase in scoring across college basketball, the NCAA announced last week. On average, teams are shooting more than one percentage point better (43.3 to 44.7) and attempting five more free throws per game.
“I think we’re not far away from being pretty good defensively,” Donlon said. “We’ve held a lot of teams to 21 and 24 in a half. Then in that second half, it’s been ‘Katy bar the door.’ We’ve got to guard better. We’ve got to guard more consistently. Last year, we were the 12th-best team in the country in how long it took a team to get off a shot against us. This year, we’re 127th. That’s a big gap. It says something about their discipline.”
Wright State at Miami, 2 p.m. ,106.5, 1450, 980