While Oakland and Northern Kentucky were preparing to play a key game Friday night in the battle to keep pace with first-place Wright State, most of the Raiders starters were already relaxing on the bench, watching the final minutes tick away in an 87-55 rout of Detroit.
The victory kept WSU (16-6, 8-1 Horizon League) atop the league standings, and the Raiders are hoping the ease with which it came about will pay dividends today when the Grizzlies visit the Nutter Center.
“They played at 9, so we’ll have more rest than them,” senior guard Grant Benzinger said. “It’ll be just a couple hours, but it definitely helps. As a player you don’t really think about it. You just try to be ready for each game. But in the back of your head it does help. It really does.”
WSU Coach Scott Nagy said the big win against the Titans not only allowed him to rest his regular players’ bodies, but also their minds after leading most of the game by a comfortable margin.
“That probably helps,” he said. “We’ve been in so many close games, tight games. We haven’t been in a game like this in what feels like forever.
“Of all the teams in the league, (the Grizzlies) are probably the one team that’s less deep than we are, in terms of minutes they play,” Nagy added. “They really play heavy minutes, those starters.”
Oakland (14-8, 6-3) defeated NKU 83-70 to kick off what is essentially a survival weekend for the preseason league favorite.
If Wright State can secure a win today, it will move three games ahead of the Grizzlies in addition to securing the tiebreaker edge via a season sweep that began with an 86-81 overtime victory at Oakland on Jan. 9.
“Certainly they’re going to be motivated,” Nagy said. “Regardless of what happened in their game (at NKU), they’re going to be motivated. I’ve coached long enough to know, when you get beat at home, there’s a better focus when you go on the road and you’re playing that team again.”
Oakland, which hasn’t lost since falling to WSU, brings a five-game winning streak to the Nutter Center. The Grizzlies also bring a much keener awareness of Raiders freshman Loudon Love, who had a breakout game against them with career highs in points (25) and rebounds (17).
“They’ll have a better focus on Loudon this time, I’m sure,” Nagy said. “So our guards are going to have to play better.
“(Oakland coach Greg) Kampe does a good job,” Nagy added. “Offensively they’re a problem. We don’t match up real well with them, just in terms of size.”
Grizzlies senior guard Kendrick Nunn has scored at least 32 points in three consecutive games. He leads the HL in scoring and is second nationally at 26.7 ppg. Senior forward Jalen Hayes is second in the league in scoring (20.3), and senior guard Martez Walker is fifth (17.2).