There’s a basketball hoop at AJ Pacher’s family house in Vandalia, but he and his teammates didn’t touch a basketball on Thanksgiving. Maybe it would have been a different story if the basketball had been full of stuffing.
The entire team, not to mention a number of players’ families, the coaches and the Pachers themselves, celebrated the holiday together Thursday, a day after Wright State beat Alcorn State 73-55 at the Nutter Center. This was easily the best Thanksgiving of the seniors’ careers.
“It was good to have everyone there,” said Pacher, a senior forward. “It was definitely better than my sophomore year. We lost to North Florida the night before and flew back. We had an interesting practice the next day and ran the Nutter Center stairs.”
The Raiders had an easier time at practice Thursday. There was no need for coach Billy Donlon to punish them after a strong performance Wednesday night. The Raiders also have a busy stretch ahead, starting with a 3 p.m. game today against Western Carolina at the Nutter Center, and need their legs.
The Catamounts are expected to be a much-improved team. They finished 13-19 last season and, like the Raiders, returned all five starters. They were picked to finish third in the Southern Conference.
Western Carolina’s top player, Trey Sumler, has scored 28, 16 and 35 points in the last three games. He scored 29 earlier this season in a 107-83 loss to Oregon, which was then ranked 18th. He was suspended for the first two games this season because of a felony assault charge that was then dismissed.
Just like last season, the Raiders look like a balanced offensive team without one player. All nine players averaging more than 15 minutes per game average between 6 and 11 points per game.
“We’ve got to continue to defend well,” Donlon said. “We’ve got to build those habits of defending and guarding people the way we’re capable. As we’re able to do that and play with the kind of energy level while guarding as we did the other night, we’ll have a chance to improve and compete for a championship.”
Western Carolina at Wright State, 3 p.m., 106.5