Wright State has Horizon League title in sight

11:36 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 Sports

Wright State has a rare morning tip-off Friday with its game against IUPUI scheduled for 11 as part of the host school’s “Readers are Leaders” program that will fill approximately 3,000 of the seats at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with third graders.

But while it may be a little different to have fans and an opponent around, hitting the gym in the morning is something that has been commonplace for the Raiders, who practice at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays, and 8:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays due to a late morning class junior guard Mark Hughes attends.

“It’s different in terms of when we have to get up and prepare for the game, but it’s really not,” coach Scott Nagy said. “Our guys are up early and in here practicing. I think for us it will be less of an adjustment than it probably will for them.”

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And with Wright State sitting just two victories – or maybe one – away from winning a Horizon League championship, Nagy expects the Raiders to be ready to go whenever and wherever the schedule says.

“When you’re in the position we’re in, if you can’t be excited about that then you probably don’t belong here,” he said. “Our guys should be very excited about what’s going on.”

Wright State (21-8 overall 13-3) HL enters the weekend tied for first with Northern Kentucky and one game ahead of UIC, whom the Raiders will close the regular season against in a 6 p.m. road game Sunday.

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If WSU goes 2-0 this weekend, it wins the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament for the first time in 11 years.

If the Raiders beat IUPUI, and UIC defeats NKU later Friday evening, WSU clinches and renders Sunday’s game inconsequential.

“We don’t have to count on other people,” Nagy said. “That’s what we’ve worked for all year.”

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The Raiders are coming off a four-game homestand in which they went 3-1, with the biggest win being a 69-67 triumph of NKU that not only moved WSU back into a tie for first but completed a season sweep for the tiebreaker that has the team in control of its own destiny.

But Nagy said he still saw plenty of warts during the homestand, with slow starts being the most glaring. The Raiders trailed at halftime in three of the games and needed a late 7-0 run to slip in front of NKU for a 32-30 lead at the break.

Wright State is 15-0 when it leads at halftime, including a 60-52 triumph of IUPUI on Dec. 30 when the Raiders allowed a season-low 19 first-half points.

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“Even though we went 3-1 on the home stretch, we didn’t play great,” Nagy said. “There’s several games where we really had to struggle in the second half to win those games. We didn’t play hard when the game started. We played hard when we needed to.

“We have to get out of that rut,” he continued. “We have to play hard right away if we’re going to win on the road.”

The issue of the slow starts late and the early start Friday could make for a malodorous mix.

But Nagy said it’s something the players need to take care of, which is why he didn’t intend to introduce any new variables such as an earlier call for lights out Thursday night at the hotel.

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“I don’t have curfews,” he said. ” I try to trust our guys that they care enough about their teammates that they go to bed when they’re supposed to go to bed. To make them do things that are out of the ordinary doesn’t necessarily help. In other words, if you make a kid go to bed at 10 o’clock and and he’s not used to going to bed at 10 o’clock, he’s not going to go to sleep.

“Everybody knows (what’s at stake),” he continued. “There are things that just don’t need to be talked about. Again, if you can’t get yourself ready to play and be ready to play hard, then there’s a problem. I expect our guys will be ready.”