College Basketball: Mitchell helps Raiders avoid preseason upset

  • Doug Harris
  • Contributing Writer
8:59 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 Sports
Wright State guard Mark Hughes drives to the hoop in Friday’s exhibition game.

Wright State’s Justin Mitchell has said his dream goal this season is to average a triple-double. And through the first half of an exhibition at the Nutter Center, he was on his way to Russell Westbrook-like numbers.

He had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the Raiders needed the star point guard to be in take-over-the-game mode because they were getting an unexpected tussle from Wayne State.

The Division II school from Nebraska shot 51.6 percent in the first half, made seven 3-pointers and trailed by one at the break.

“We knew they were going to come out like they had something to prove,” Mitchell said. “We have to respect teams like that because they have a chip on their shoulder.”

The Raiders looked more engaged after that humbling first half and took control midway through the second 20 minutes on their way to a 73-58 victory Friday. And Mitchell was the catalyst, scoring seven points in a 10-2 run that turned a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead.

He finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, while junior wing Mark Hughes notched 21 points.

Five things we learned:

Calm coach

Wright State’s Scott Nagy expected a challenge from the Wildcats, who finished 10-19 last season but returned five starters.

“It’s a big game for them. I tried to convince our guys of that,” he said, pointing out that D-II Barry upset Auburn on Thursday.

“For Wayne State to get to play in our gym — they don’t play in gyms like that — it’s a big deal for them.”

Nagy also expected some early missteps because Mitchell is the only returning starter until the injured Grant Benzinger returns.

“You probably saw tonight I didn’t go crazy,” he said. “We were playing a lot of young guys — and not only young guys, but guys in different roles.”

Defense does it

After allowing a generous 39 points on 35 possessions in the first half, the Raiders surrendered 19 on 31 after halftime.

Nagy said they’ll need stingy defense when the real games begin because “we’re probably never going to be an offensive juggernaut.”

Whole lotta Love

Louden Love hadn’t played in a game since the end of the 2014-15 season, but he didn’t show much rust. He finished with 17 points and 12 boards.

The 6-foot-9, 275-pound center missed his senior season in high school because of a knee injury and redshirted last year.

“He’s been dominating in practice with rebounding, and he continues to do that,” Nagy said. “He’ll keep getting better because he works hard. We just have to surround him with good shooters.”

Nagy vs. Nagy

Tyler Nagy, son of the Wright State coach, is a career reserve but was given a starting nod.

The 5-10 senior hit a 3-pointer with 15:45 to go in the first half for his only points. Father and son shared a hug in the postgame handshake line.

Nagy and wife Jamie also hosted Wayne State for a meal Thursday night.

Benzinger update

After missing the entire preseason because of hernia surgery, the Raiders’ leading returning scorer may be ready for Friday’s opener at Loyola (Ill.).

But even if he’s cleared when he meets with the medical staff Wednesday, he’d have only one practice to get ready.

“He’s not going to be in any kind of shape. His timing probably isn’t going to be there. But if there’s one guy who can do it, it’s Grant. He could play some minutes because he’s a tough kid,” Nagy said.