FAIRBORN — After being battered inside by Western Kentucky in their last game, the Wright State Raiders guarded the rim with a bit more tenacity Tuesday against Miami.
It didn’t hurt that the Redhawks prefer doing their business from long range, and while the overall defensive effort wasn’t near where it needs to be, the Raiders made plays when they needed to in a 92-82 win. The Redhawks (4-6) hoisted 25 three-point shots, making 11, while scoring just 36 in the paint.
That’s quite the improvement from the 52 that the Hilltoppers scored last week — mostly from myriad layups in the second half. Protecting the paint has been a focal point for the Raiders, who blocked three Miami shots and didn’t give up many uncontested shots inside.
“We’ve just got to be tough when they drive at us and show them our chest and be tough with that,” said Brandon Noel, who grabbed 12 rebounds to go with four steals. “It’s something we work on, a lot of one-on-one at practice, ball toughness, on-ball toughness. We’ve just been continuing to drill that, to drill that every day so we can get better and today I think we did a really good showing with that.”
Noel also had a season-high 25 points, one of four Raiders in double digits. Tanner Holden led all scorers with a season-high 27, Alex Huibregtse added 17 and Trey Calvin 11.
While not satisfied with his team’s defense, Coach Scott Nagy had no issues with the volume of three-pointers Miami took.
“Those guys made 11 threes and got beat by 10,” Nagy said. “They also missed 14 of them and it’s also an opportunity for us to run when they miss them. They’re long rebounds and they’re out of position and it’s a chance for us to go and we were able to run well tonight.”
Running was the key for the Raiders, who had 17 points off turnovers, including six in a game-sealing stretch late.
Up 81-78, Calvin scored off a turnover from Mekhi Cooper with 2:45 left. On the next Miami possession, Calvin picked off a bad pass from Cooper and found Holden with a behind-the-head pass for a dunk and an 85-78 lead. Calvin then grabbed a bad pass from Jaquel Morris and again led the fast break, missing a layup that Holden slammed in for an 87-78 lead with 2:07 left.
Miami scored just four more points.
“That’s one of the things we call, like pick sixes like in football, you just get a free steal and a layup,” Noel said. “That’s something we try to eliminate for us, but when we can get those it’s really almost like demoralizing for teams to get those because it’s just like an instant two points and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
That game-seizing run answered a run by Miami that cut an 80-72 lead to just two with 3:26 left.
“Some of the games that we’ve been in before, whenever a team makes a run we kind of fold and crumble,” Holden said. “But I thought today we stayed together.”
Miami made several runs including one at the end of the first half and one to start the second half, but as Holden said, the Raiders didn’t crack, despite being down nine less than two minutes in.
“The start of the second half was not good,” Nagy said. “To be down at half, and the way the second half started it was like ‘Oh boy,’ and our guys just didn’t panic. And that’s probably what I’m most pleased about.”
The Raiders went on an 18-2 run to take a 61-54 lead with 14:40 left, a lead they would not give up despite it being cut to three or under several times.
“It’s probably the first time I’ve seen this year where steals turned into points for us,” Nagy said. “(But) our defense still has so much work to do. It just does. You shoot 68 percent, you ought to win by more than 10 so the defense is still a struggle. (But) I thought when we needed to make some plays, we did.”
The Raiders (5-6) host Muskingum at 1 p.m. Friday.
Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.