- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
As the leading rebounder in the Horizon League, Wright State freshman Loudon Love knows a little something about grabbing control.
Such as, if you loosen your grip for a second, that control can disappear.
That will be the message for the Raiders after they regained control of the top spot in the HL with a 69-67 triumph of Northern Kentuckyon Friday night.
“High-emotion game, huge crowd, good win as a program absolutely, but we’ve got three more games coming up that we have to work just as hard for and put just as much emotion into,” Love said after leading the Raiders with 15 points and six rebounds. “It’s good to know where we’re at, but we’ve got to keep working.”
Here are five things to know about the win against the Norse:
Not only does the win give WSU the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Norse, but the Raiders also are in position to earn the No. 1 seed if Illinois-Chicago, which is just one game back, joins the fray to make it a three-way tie.
UIC, which will play host to NKU (Friday) and WSU (next Sunday) to end the regular season, already has lost to both teams. So even if the Flames pull off a sweep next weekend to draw even, Wright State would be 3-1 among the group, while UIC would be 2-2 and the Norse 1-3.
To foul or not to foul
Wright State took a three-point lead against NKU on a Jaylon Hall jumper with 14.5 seconds to go, leaving the Raiders with the dilemma of not only whether to foul in order to prevent a 3-pointer, but when to do it.
“If we have a chance to foul without them shooting, we’re going to foul,” Nagy said. “Now it’s hard with 14 seconds left and they come down and run a play. That’s very difficult. But I told the players, if you have a chance and they’re not at the basket, foul them. Don’t let them get the shot off.”
WSU sophomore guard Cole Gentry blew up a dribble handoff with nine seconds to go, disrupting the play NKU had designed. The Norse looked out of sorts as they made two short perimeter passes with time running out, and Gentry alertly committed a foul with 2.8 remaining.
Lavone Holland made the first free throw and tried to miss the second with a high-arching shot, but it rattled in.
NKU junior Tyler Sharpe, who had come off the bench to score a career-high 19 points in each of his last two games, was at it again in the first half Friday night. He hit four of his first six shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, to lead everyone at the break with 14 points.
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But Gentry fought through screens and chased Sharpe around the floor in the second half, holding him to 1-of-6 shooting, with the lone bucket coming when Sharpe stole the ball from Grant Benzinger and scored on a layup.
The Raiders had not been outrebounded in eight consecutive games, but NKU dominated the glass for a 37-27 edge.
“They whipped us on the glass,” Nagy said. “It’s not very often you get beat 10 on the glass and win a game. I bet — and I’ve coached a lot of games — that I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been beat 10 on the glass and won.”
Fourteen of NKU’s 37 rebounds came on the offensive end, including three consecutive possessions in the second half when the Norse rebounded a missed 3-pointer and converted into an easy bucket inside as part of a 16-6 edge in second-chance points.
Wright State went on a 7-0 run to close the first half with a 32-30 lead. And when the team takes leads into the second half, it doesn’t give them up.
The Raiders improved to 15-0 in games in which they led at the halftime, 19-1 in games they led with 10 minutes to go and 20-0 in games they led with five minutes remaining.