Wednesday, December 7, 2016 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.
The Wright State Raiders were picked to finish fifth the the Horizon League preseason poll. They’re coming off two recent road losses, at Penn State and Georgia State, which have dropped their season record to 5-3 against Division I teams. Their only other loss was a home defeat against Toledo. But WSU isn’t just a team that benefits from home cookin’ at the Nutter Center—they kicked off the season with an 85-81 win against SIU in Carbondale, and trailed by only three at halftime at Penn State.
Coach Scott Nagy’s four guard, one forward starting lineup has been unchanged all year. The Raiders are led by 6’5” junior guard Mark Alstork, who is all over the court and will get much of the defensive attention. Alstork was a preseason 2nd teamer, and is averaging 21.6 ppg even after being held to 15 points (on 3-of-18 field goal shooting) against Penn State. He leads the team in minutes, points, points per game, assists, turnovers, free throw attempts, free throws made, free throw percentage, and foul outs. Alstork shoots less than 40% from the field, just below 40% on both three pointers and including two point attempts. Yet he’s deadly from the free throw line, shooting 85.9% from the stripe on 85 attempts (more than twice as many shots as anyone else on the team).
The other starters have a more equal share in the offense. Six-eight senior forward Steven Davis averages 14.8 points per game on 54% shooting from the field (including 46% from distance), but despite his size averages only 4.0 rebounds. The main work on the boards comes from 6’3” junior guard Grant Benzinger (13.7 ppg, 6.6 rebounds) and 6’4” junior guard Justin Mitchell (10.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Senior guard Mike La Tulip out of Prospect High School in Arlington Heights is a great ball handler who chips in 8.3 points, almost all of them (57 points out of his 75 points on the season) coming via the three-point shot, where he knocks down 46.3%.
Only three additional players have appeared in more than half the games for the Raiders: Parker Ernsthausen is a 6’11” sophomore forward averaging 4.3 points and 2.1 boards; sophomore guard Mark Hughes contributes 3.0 points and 3.3 boards; and 6’7” freshman forward Ryan Custer plays about 10 minutes. Unless the game is safely out of hand, you won’t see any other Raiders.
WSU is a team that likes to run, shoot, create some chaos, and look for matchup problems. Their shooting percentages aren’t very high, but they get to the line quite a lot (72 times more than their opponents, and connecting at a very high 76.6% as a team). They’re better than average three point shooters (39.7% as a team), but they fire up a lot of them, helping to make up for low effectiveness near the basket. You won’t find a lot of teams at this point of the season with four starters having made more than 30 three point attempts, and three having made more than 40.
The Ramblers need to control the tempo against the Raiders, who according to kenpom.com play the 45th fastest pace in Division I. Wright State averages 79.0 points on offense and likes to play in the 80s, while Loyola prefers games in the mid to upper 60s.
Despite Alstork’s gaudy numbers, the Raiders’ success is more closely tied to the group play of the other four starters. The Raiders have lost with Alstork scoring 39 (against Toledo) and they’ve won with Alstork held to only five points in 32 minutes (against North Florida). Keeping Alstork off the free throw line and the other four starters from reaching double figures in the scorebook is the best way to beat Wright State. Maybe more attention needs to be given to the three point shooting defense, since the Raiders are happy with the three point trigger finger. Loyola also needs to play with the kind focus and energy they had against San Diego State—it hasn’t been a problem yet this year, but sometimes after winning a big game the Ramblers have been known to get blindsided by their next opponents’ determination.
Loyola game notes: http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/loy … 202aaa.pdf
Wright State game notes: http://www.wsuraiders.com/ViewArticle.d … =211338991
TV/Streaming video: http://www.espn.com/watchespn/index/_/i … olachicago
Vegas odds: Loyola by 7.5