- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Wright State’s Scott Nagy, like most coaches, is a big proponent of leaving games, whether they be wins or losses, in the past and always facing forward.
But Nagy admitted the Raiders could benefit from packing a little piece of Sunday’s stirring comeback against UIC into their luggage for the trip to the Horizon League tournament.
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“Oh, yeah,” Nagy said when asked if rallying from 14 down the way WSU did can have a carryover effect.
“Going into the tournament not having lost two games in a row, just for confidence sake,” Nagy added. “Any kind of doubt that can leak in. Everybody likes to say they believe fully, but doubt certainly can leak in. I think that that really helped that our players fought through and won that basketball game.”
The loss at IUPUI two days before the season-finale at UIC cost the Raiders the regular-season title, dropping them to the No. 2 seed, which means they will open tournament play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday’s late game between No. 7 Green Bay and No. 10 Detroit Mercy.
Those final two games also illustrated that offense can be just as necessary as defense to winning championships. The 66-56 loss at IUPUI was the lowest point total the Raiders scored in a conference game this season. The 88-81 win at UIC marked the most.
“You have to score,” Nagy said. “You’re not going to win hardly any college games scoring 56 points.”
Regardless of whom they play Saturday, the Raiders are going to need to score to keep pace. Detroit finished first in the league in scoring offense (78.7), and Green Bay was fourth (75.9).
But WSU also will need to get back to playing the kind of defense that has them ranked 12th in the country in points allowed possession (0.928) and near the top of the league in almost every other defense category except steals.
Practicing all week without knowing their first opponent allowed the Raiders to retool defensively
“It gives us a chance to focus just on what we’re doing and spend more time focused on us,” Nagy said. “For so many weeks now we’ve focused on other teams and what they’re doing. Last weekend we were very average defensively. We were over one-point per possession in both games and that’s not good enough for us. So there’s some things on defense we need to clean up.”
Here is an overall outlook at this year’s Horizon League tournament at the new Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit:
FAVORITE: Top-seed Northern Kentucky is the defending champ after riding the No. 4 seed to the title in 2017.
The Norse enter the tournament having won eight of nine, with the lone loss coming at Wright State.
DARK HORSE: Oakland, the No. 4 seed, has the conference Player of the Year in Kendrick Nunn and a coach in Greg Kampe with 601 career wins. That’s a dangerous combination.
Other than Wright State, the Grizzlies are the only other team to beat NKU this season, and they were the preseason pick to win the league before injuries took a toll. But Oakland has had time to adjust and will be a difficult out.
MAKING MADNESS: Since Motor City Madness began in 2015 with the entire tournament being held at one site, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds have yet to win a game, going 0-4.
Last year the lower seed won the first five games of the tournament, and No. 10 Milwaukee advanced all the way to the championship game.
BACK-TO-BACK: NKU will try to become the first team to repeat as tournament champion since Butler in 2010-11.