Storming to the Horizon League title and reaching the NCAA tournament last season was a memorable experience for Wright State, but coach Scott Nagy believes his players need some reminders on what it took to reach those heights.
He didn’t like what he saw during a 73-54 setback Saturday at Murray State, and he hopes they’re ready to dig a little deeper when Toledo visits on Wednesday.
“There’s nothing like being humbled to make you focus,” he said. “We had five months of everybody talking about how great we were. I think we’re a little full of ourselves. We found out how good we are.”
The Raiders may be ready to get back to playing at the standard they set a year ago, but they’ll have to do it without a key player. Sophomore wing Jaylon Hall, who was the team’s fourth-leading scorer last season with a 9.1 average, is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury that will require surgery, according to the coach.
The 6-foot-6 Houston native missed the opener and tried to play against Murray State, but he finished 0-for-9 from the field in 26 minutes.
“He just didn’t feel like he could help us,” Nagy said.
Hall’s absence will strip the Raiders of some of their athleticism and hamper their rotation.
Nagy said freshmen guards Skyelar Potter and Malachi Smith will get more minutes, and senior guard Alan Vest, who scored just 11 points in 14 games last season, will have a more significant role.
“We’re just going to have to circle the wagons and get other people ready,” Nagy said. “It really affects our team. It changes our depth. It changes who plays the back-up point.
“Defensively, we’re not as good without him. There’s a lot of areas where it hurts us.”
Nagy was confident the Raiders would shoot at a better clip this season after finishing 245th out of 351 Division-I teams in offensive efficiency in 2017-18. But they took a step back against Murray State, hitting 3-of-18 three-pointers and going 38.2 percent from the field overall.
The defending Ohio Valley Conference champs designed their defense to make sure perimeter players didn’t get free — even if it meant single coverage on Louden Love, a preseason first-team all-league center who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
“The biggest thing is you go five or six months seeing your defense (in practice) and the kind of defense you play,” Nagy said. “We don’t pressure, and all of a sudden you see really good athletes and pressure, and it’s a little bit of a shocker.”
After scoring 26 points and going 5-of-9 on 3s in a season-opening win against Western Carolina, newcomer Billy Wampler was held to seven points and went 1-of-3 beyond the arc.
But the 6-foot-6 junior, who is playing mostly at power forward, made 60 treys in his last season before transferring from Drake and connected at about a 50-percent rate during preseason practice.
“He’s a good offensive player, but there are other things we need from him — and he’s not the only one,” Nagy said.
The emphasis this week has been on rebounding and defense after Murray State had a 41-26 edge on the boards, made 10-of-22 three-pointers and shot 54 percent overall.
“It’s always the same for us. That will always be our focus,” Nagy said. “It wasn’t very good against Murray. We got whipped on the glass, and it led to them shooting a very high field-goal percentage.
“We’re not a really big team, especially with Bill at the 4. Our guys are going to have to fight and be more scrappy.”