Youngstown native Hughes sparks WSU past Penguins

There’s no face like home for Wright State junior guard Mark Hughes.

Playing against Youngstown State tends to bring out the best in Hughes, a Youngstown native, and that was the case again Monday as he scored 13 points and made several key plays late as the Raiders pulled away from the Penguins for a 77-67 victory at the Nutter Center.

“I think it means a little more to me, just being from there,” Hughes said. “It’s always good to win against your hometown. It feels good.”

The victory was the seventh in a row for the Raiders (14-5 overall, 6-0 Horizon League) kept them in sole possession of first place in the Horizon League.

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Hughes was one five WSU players to finish in double figures, but the most significant contribution was his defense against Cameron Morse, as he and freshman forward Everett Winchester combined to hold the explosive YSU senior guard to two points on 1 of 12 shooting.

“On the ball, Mark is a tremendous defender,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said. “He had (Morse) most of the night.

“Mark was good defensively in the first half, but offensively he was non-existent,” Nagy added. “He passed up shots. I thought he played very passive. I talked to him about it. I didn’t yell at him, I just said ‘We need you to get going.’ And he did.”

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Hughes scored all 13 of his points after halftime, six of which came on a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half as WSU rallied from a seven-point deficit.

Hughes also had four assists and three steals, the last of which came against Morse as the Penguins (5-14, 3-3) were trying to slice into a six-point lead with four minutes to go.

Hughes’ treys contributed to a season-high 10 made by WSU on 24 attempts.

Freshman guard Jaylon Hall hit his first three from beyond the arc and scored 16 points to share team-high honors with freshman center Loudon Love, who added a team-high six rebounds.

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Sophomore guard Cole Gentry connected on his first four treys on the way to scoring 14 along with a game-high six assists, while senior guard Grant Benzinger added 13 points.

“That’s the only thing that kept us in the first half is those two (Gentry and Hall) making 3s,” Nagy said. “Because other than that we weren’t very good.”

Despite getting next to nothing from Morse in the first half, the Penguins put together an 18-3 run that began at the 11:03 mark and didn’t end until a Parker Ernsthausen bucket in the paint with 1:54 left before the break.

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The focus the Raiders put on Morse left the 5-foot-10 Gentry to try to guard Braun Hartfield.

Morse was just 1 of 7 in the first half, but Hartfield was 6 of 8, including 3 of 4 as he scored 18 of his game-high 26 to send the Penguins into the locker room with a 38-35 edge.

It was the first time in six conference games this season the Raiders have trailed at halftime.

Wright State returns to the road Thursday at Wisconsin-Green Bay before wrapping a stretch of five of six road games with a contest at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday.

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Both Green Bay and Milwaukee are in the bottom half of the HL standings, but Nagy said the Raiders are going to need to play better and more consistent than they did Monday to keep their winning streak going.

“We’re just not used to this as this point, that at 6-0 we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Nagy said. “We’re not good enough, we don’t have enough talent and we’re not deep enough where we’re just going to roll in and play poorly and beat people. It takes maturity to show up every night and play well.”

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