Defense dooms Raiders in loss to Western Kentucky


FAIRBORN — The story of Wright State’s game against Western Kentucky Tuesday could be told in 26 seconds.

That’s the time it took for the Hilltoppers to inbound the ball and get it to Khristian Lander, who drove virtually unguarded for a layup, turning a three-point lead into five with 21 seconds left, leading to a 91-84 win in front of 3,138 at the Nutter Center.

That was one of 12 layups the Hilltoppers made in the second half — a combination of second-chance opportunities and drives — and 24 of the 30 points they scored in the paint in the second half. That’s not the kind of defensive effort Coach Scott Nagy was looking for after taking a 43-40 halftime lead.

“We’re not good enough defensively,” Nagy said. “We just aren’t.”

The 4-6 Raiders were 333rd out of 362 teams in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.119 points per possession. While they moved up to 328th (1.112 points per) after the game, it’s still reflective of defensive issues that have yet to be solved.

“At some point I have to be able to communicate, get the point across better about our defense,” Nagy said. “You can’t continue to score 84 points and lose basketball games.”

Wright State is 49th in offensive offensive efficiency, averaging 1.108 points per possession and that definitely wasn’t the issue Tuesday. Trey Calvin scored a season-high 34 points, while Tanner Holden added 18, and Alex Huibregtse 12.

But when the Raiders needed stops in the second half, they couldn’t get them. And when they needed a rebound, they couldn’t get one. WKU (8-3) out-rebounded the Raiders 25-11 in the second half and converted 14 WSU turnovers into 21 points.

“They just physically whipped us in the second half.” Nagy said. “They just played harder. It’s my fault. I’ve not done a good enough job convincing these guys how important defense is. It’s hard to be good enough offensively and not good enough defensively.”

Despite all that, the Raiders had a better-than-decent chance to win.

Down 83-74 with 3:20 left, Wright State scored five straight to make it 83-79 with 2:19 left after a three-point play by Huibregtse. Tyrone Marshall Jr., then got a second-chance bucket on a layup before Holden made a jumper to cut it to 85-81 with 1:02 left.

The Hilltoppers opted to continue to play fast as Don McHenry scored two of his team-high 30 points on a driving layup seven seconds after Holden’s shot. A three-pointer from Calvin with 47 seconds cut it to 87-84 and then Lander made his game-clinching drive to the hoop to effectively end the game.

“It was incredible,” Nagy said of the number of layups the Hilltoppers made in the waning moments. “It’s frustrating. Our guys are frustrated. They’re very athletic, they’re very physical and we didn’t match that in the second half at all.”

The Raiders host Miami University Tuesday, Dec. 19 and Muskingum Friday, Dec. 22 before resuming Horizon League play at Green Bay Friday, Dec. 29 and Milwaukee Sunday, Dec. 31.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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