Wright State doesn’t have a star, and on most nights, it makes that seem like an advantage.
The Raiders make up for not having a scorer who ranks among the top 15 in the Horizon League by getting production from everyone. That was never more evident than Thursday night when nine different players scored in the first half alone in a 64-53 victory over Green Bay in the league opener for both teams at the Nutter Center.
Reggie Arceneaux led the Raiders with 15 points, but it was the unexpected 13 points from Tavares Sledge, whose previous season was eight, that stood out.
“Everyone can do everything on this team,” Arceneaux said. “Tavares can make a pull-up jumper. He can make a 3. He attempted one in the second half. He didn’t make it, but he can make it. I can go on down the line with our team. That’s the advantage we have.”
With Sledge’s performance, nine Raiders have scored in double figures at least once this season.
Full lineup: Forward AJ Pacher returned the lineup after missing three games with a foot injury. Pacher hasn’t been healthy since the first couple games of the season, but he continued to play in early December because the Raiders needed his size inside.
Pacher finally got a chance to rest and didn’t play against Miami, Cincinnati or Mount St. Joseph. He scored two points in five minutes Thursday.
“I thought he was good in the first half,” coach Billy Donlon said, “and I didn’t think he competed as hard in the second half. But we need him. His low-post move is critical. He got a wide-open 3 and didn’t make it. I want him to shoot that every time. His talk, his IQ is really good.”
Free throws: For the second straight game, the Raiders struggled at the free-throw line. They made 9-of-22 in Sunday’s 58-49 victory over Mount St. Joseph, and they were 3-of-8 in the first half against Green Bay.
They then missed their first five free throws of the second half. At that point, Arceneaux made up for some of those misses by knocking down four in a row. The Raiders were strong at the line after that and made 17-of-27 in the game.
Arceneaux said each of the players had to shoot 500 free throws at practice one day earlier this week.
“I guess we’re going to have to shoot 1,000 next time,” Arceneaux said.
Asked how long it takes to shoot 500, Arceneaux said, “I really don’t know. It was a long time.”
Donlon’s advice to shooters is to not show negative emotion at the line.
“If you miss a foul shot, get to your routine and man up,” Donlon said. “It’s a lot like life. If you screw up, you hope somebody gives you a second chance. That’s one of the best things about free throws. If you shoot two, guess what, you get a second chance like it’s the best thing that ever happened to you. Never let it go, and step up and make that free throw.”
Defensive performance: The Raiders held Green Bay to 14 points below their average. Brennan Cougill, in his first game back since a three-game suspension, had a good night with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but the team’s top scorer, Keifer Sykes, was held to 11 points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Kam Cerroni, who averages 7.2 points, was held scoreless and only attempted one shot in 23 minutes.
“The job Kendall Griffin did on Keifer Sykes was unbelievable,” Donlon said. “Keifer is one of the best guards in our league, and he’s only a sophomore. Cougill hurt us. We tried to wear him down by making him move and guard all over the place. Last year, Cerroni beat us both games, and we did a nice job on him.”
Around the league: Horizon League play got off to an interesting start Wednesday when preseason favorite Valparaiso lost 63-54 at home to Loyola, a team picked to finish seventh. Loyola (10-3) already had three more wins than it had all of last season.
It was a good night all around for the league’s Chicago teams as Illinois-Chicago beat Youngstown State 65-60 at home.
On Thursday, Detroit (9-5) opened league play with a 74-59 victory over Wright State’s next opponent, Milwaukee (4-11).
Next up: The Raiders stay at home for a 7 p.m. game against Milwaukee on Saturday. It’s the second of four Horizon League games in a nine-day stretch.