- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Wright State will try to avoid a repeat of Thursday’s letdown when the team plays at Youngstown State on Saturday, but at least one thing is certain to be the same:
Freshman forward Everett Winchester will not play due to a head injury suffered a week ago against Detroit.
“We’ve already been told we won’t have him,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said following the 77-74 loss at last-place Cleveland State on Thursday.
Winchester averaged 8.0 points and 3.7 rebounds off the bench and is a big reason WSU (17-7, 9-2 Horizon League) has been in first place since conference play began.
Despite averaging just 21 minutes per game, the 6-foot-6 Baltimore native is second on the team in offensive rebounds (28) and free-throw attempts (87).
“Other than Cole (Gentry), we don’t have penetrators, guys who put pressure on the defense,” Nagy said. “Everett really does that. He’s hard to match up against. And defensively, he can guard anybody.
“Not having Everett is no excuse for how we played (at CSU),” Nagy added. “As a matter of fact, we should be more focused and more ready to go knowing that we’re another guy down.”
Already thin due to senior guard Justin Mitchell leaving the team , WSU will miss Winchester’s physical presence against YSU (6-18, 4-7), which pushed the Raiders around before squandering a seven-point lead in a 77-67 loss Jan. 15 at the Nutter Center.
“They’re going to be tough,” WSU Grant Benzinger said of the Penguins. “They probably should have beat us at home, honestly. But we fought back and won the game.
“We’ve got to do that again Saturday,” he added. “We have to come out with a fast start. Got to. This is a must win if we want to win the league.”
Wright State enters the game tied with Northern Kentucky for first place. The Norse beat YSU 95-85 Thursday night to draw even with the Raiders.
The Penguins lead the league in offensive rebounds with an average of 14.2. IUPUI is a distant second at 11.8.
“We could do everything right and not win (Saturday), because physically we don’t match up with them,” Nagy said. “They physically manhandled us last time and they’re not happy that they lost.”
Not having Winchester will put even more pressure on freshman center Loudon Love, the conference’s leading rebounder (9.4).
“Everett’s a big part of the team, but we’ve still got to be able to step up and make plays happen without him,” said Love, who has recorded double-digit rebounds in six of the last nine games.
The biggest key to offsetting Winchester’s absence will be to get off to a fast start, something Wright State didn’t do at Cleveland State, falling behind 9-2 by the first media timeout and 27-16 less than 15 minutes into the game.
“We can’t have starts like that,” Love said. “It makes it tough to come back no matter who you are and no matter who you’re playing.”
“We’re not good enough offensively to overcome starts like that when we give the other team confidence,” Nagy said. “We don’t have that kind of firepower, and now we can’t get to the free0throw line because we only have one guy who can play inside the paint. Nobody else can get the ball in there off the dribble. Physically we’re not good enough to be bad defensively and win ballgames.”