FAIRBORN — Neither of Trey Calvin’s two attempts to give Wright State the lead in the final minute of Tuesday’s home opener fell.
While those shots were the final determiner of a 78-77 defeat against Toledo at the Nutter Center, they didn’t even occur on the side of the floor players and coaches were focused on after the game.
“One of the things we’ve preached about for a long, long time now is just defense,” Brandon Noel said. “We let them get a couple points within the last five or six minutes that got them a good lead and we were scrapping back and couldn’t quite get back in front.”
Wright State certainly displayed improvement from its opener at Colorado State when it allowed 105 points and let the Rams shoot better than 80 percent from inside the arc.
Against Toledo (3-0) they were able to hold the Rockets to its fewest points and worst shooting performance so far at this youthful point of the season and never let their lead get to be more than five.
“I was so low over what we did at Colorado State and I just have so much more confidence in our kids right now after watching that,” head coach Scott Nagy said.
Both sides traded the lead throughout the second half, but stops when they were needed were tough to come by for the Raiders to keep their advantages.
Wright State (0-2) led 62-58 with just over 10 minutes left before Toledo went on a 6-0 run. The Raiders shortly after again went up by three but couldn’t get a stop on four consecutive possessions by the Rockets.
“We felt better out there on both sides of the ball, but we still ended up losing,” A. J. Braun said. “We’ve got to just execute on defense better at the end and keep playing.”
A chance to win was still available after WSU forced an air ball with less than 10 seconds left to set up a final shot.
Calvin dribbled up the floor after a timeout and never relinquished possession, but couldn’t find a clear lane or open space as he began to be surrounded by Rockets as time ticked away and was forced to try a one-handed off balance shot from roughly 17 feet which hit the front part of the rim.
“I’m sure they knew where the ball was going toward the end of the game” Braun said. “They were trying everything to get the ball out of his hands and they defended it pretty well.”
Toledo entered Tuesday’s game as the nation’s best three-point shooting team at 51.7 percent. After hitting their first attempt in the opening minute of the game, they didn’t make another for the next 17 before finally knocking in a pair that gave them their first lead of the game.
Wright State shot better than 62 percent from the floor in the first half, but committed 10 turnover and didn’t get to the free throw line to trail 41-40 at the break.
Calvin scored a game-high 22 points to lead four in double figures for Wright State. Braun added 16, Tanner Holden had 15 and Noel scored 10 while playing all 40 minutes.
The upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier, nor does it give the Raiders much time to recover with a date at Indiana coming on Thursday.
Wright State pulled out a win over a blueblood a season ago when it knocked off Louisville, and will bring in an offense showing its strong enough to contend at Assembly Hall.
Improvements on defense will likely need to continue to provide the support needed to make the situation more comfortable.
“It’s something we’re all looking forward to seeing that environment, that atmosphere we don’t typically see,” Noel said. “A whole different animal in terms of where we’re about to play.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.